Military

HAWC hypersonic missile chalks up two successful flights in a row

HAWC hypersonic missile chalks up two successful flights in a row
Illustration of the HAWC prototype
Illustration of the HAWC prototype
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The HAWC protype made a previous successful flight in 2021
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The HAWC protype made a previous successful flight in 2021
Illustration of the HAWC prototype
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Illustration of the HAWC prototype

The US hypersonic weapons program has reached a major milestone, with a Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) hypersonic cruise missile developed by Raytheon Technologies and Northrop Grumman completing two successful flight tests in a row.

Though a number of different nations are developing hypersonic weapon systems and some have even deployed them to a limited degree, the real hurdle that has still to be cleared is to produce a controllable hypersonic missile that is both practical and reliable.

The July flight of the HAWC missile for DARPA and the US Department of Defense was conducted at an undisclosed location and follows on the heels of a previous successful first test on September 2, 2021. Flying a hypersonic vehicle isn't new. They've been in the air since the X-15 program in the 1960s. What is interesting is that there were two successful flights in a row of such an advanced autonomous weapon prototype.

The HAWC protype made a previous successful flight in 2021
The HAWC protype made a previous successful flight in 2021

Though a gap of 11 months between flights seems large, the Raytheon Technologies/Northrop Grumman team points out that the HAWC program is fast-tracking development by using digital engineering, where a virtual twin of the missile has flown countless flights in a computer simulation between the two real-world tests. This allows the team to use digital models and real-world flight data to develop new materials, manufacturing processes, and aerodynamic shapes best suited to withstand the temperatures and stresses of flying at speeds in excess of Mach 5.

For the latest test, the HAWC prototype was carried under the wing of an aircraft and flown to high altitude, where it was released. A solid rocket booster then accelerated the vehicle to supersonic speed and a scramjet ignited. An engine without moving parts, a scramjet uses its forward motion to compress the incoming air into a shockwave that burns with fuel, producing enough thrust to propel the missile to over five times the speed of sound.

The latest prototype had only minor modifications from the previous flight and met all of its objectives. The data recovered by telemetry will be used to improve the digital models using artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data, which will increase the efficiency and performance as the weapon concept comes closer to practical deployment.

"Advancing our nation's hypersonic capabilities is a critical national imperative, and this was an important step forward," said Wes Kremer, president of Raytheon Missiles & Defense, a Raytheon Technologies business. "Having back-to-back successful flight tests gives us even greater confidence in the technical maturity of our HAWC operational prototype."

Source: Raytheon

9 comments
9 comments
CarolynFarstrider
Are we all supposed to be pleased that scientists are working on machines that can kill anyone, anywhere, without warning? What a great contribution to the promotion and enhancement of World peace. Perhaps we can have a statement on when this stuff would actually be used?
Cymon Curcumin
This research was put on high priority because China and Russia have been making strides in it. It’s an insecurity thing. China and Russia NEED hypersonic weapons because the West has competent air defence. The West abandoned it until now because our enemies DON’T have competent air defense. We don’t need it. It’s like how Russian warships are covered with missile tubes instead of guns because they can’t get close enough to Western assets to use guns. You buy weapons to counter your enemy not match him in a numbers contest. The best counter measure to a weapon isn’t alway a similar weapon. Just ask Ukraines firing Javelins at tanks.
Rocky Stefano
@CarolynFarstrider - Tell that to Ukraine. If they had even five of these loaded with conventional warheads I very much doubt Russia would be meddling in someone else's sovereign country
Jinpa
Only laser defense systems, of which there are few, are likely to stop these. Get busy, Pentagon.
BlueOak
@CF, I’d much rather live in the countries that have them vs those that do not. #HeadInSand
Hopeful
No choice on this one since China and Russia already have them. Hopefully they provide a strong deterrent while political issues get worked out through diplomatic means. The war in Ukraine should illustrate that words aren't always enough.
spyinthesky
I agree Carolyn it’s deeply depressing, but sadly there only one thing worse than having weapons such as this and that is not having them when expansionist tyrants with deeply malicious intensions do. The person who can solve this seemingly endless problem will indeed be a great, probably the greatest human asset the world has ever known. But sadly I don’t expect any such super person to ever be amongst us. Sadly I never expected the world to re enter the appalling state of affairs in the thirties especially with all the knowledge of that disastrous decade yet it is back and with a new found vengeance and intensity, humans will likely never learn. We wonder why we have not seen any signs of intelligence species in the Universe as yet when we are too stupid to see that as yet they don’t even exist here.
SteveMc
@CarolynFarstrider ; No normal person would be pleased about any of this wasted money and effort but unfortunately the game that is played in avoiding war is our very shaky method of security called 'deterrent'. The Russians are apparently well ahead of the West in designing and testing their hypersonic missiles, so if they can hit us in mere minutes from launch, we need to deflect that threat with proof that we can return the favour. I hate it as much as you do, maybe even more.
Robt
@CarolynFarstrider The purpose of designing and building weapons is ideally as a deterrent. And yes, these weapons are a contribution to peace; do you think that President Putin would have invaded Ukraine if he had thought that they were armed with the best technology out there?