Lockheed’s HAWC hypersonic missile makes successful test flight
DARPA, the US Air Force Research Lab (AFRL), Lockheed Martin, and Aerojet Rocketdyne have successfully conducted a second test flight of a Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) hypersonic missile, over an undisclosed location.
The March flight follows on from the first HAWC flight on September 20, 2021, which was made by a different vehicle built by Raytheon Missiles & Defense and Northrop Grumman. Details of the latest test flight by the Lockheed version, which is powered by an Aerojet Rocketdyne scramjet engine, are sparse, but after being dropped from a B-52 bomber the missile reached a speed in excess of Mach 5 and flew at an altitude of over 65,000 ft (20,000 m) for a distance of over 300 nm (345 miles, 555 km).
According to a CNN report, the test took place in mid-March, but the Biden administration chose to delay the announcement for two weeks to avoid escalating tensions with Russia, which claimed to have used a hypersonic missile against a target in Ukraine.
There are a number of different kinds of hypersonic missiles that fly at over five times the speed of sound. Unlike glide vehicles that achieve high speed by plunging from high altitudes, the HAWC missiles use air-breathing engines to sustain flight, which allows them to fly at lower altitudes and maneuver over long distances to avoid defenses and home in on targets, destroying them through kinetic energy rather than high explosives.
"This Lockheed Martin HAWC flight test successfully demonstrated a second design that will allow our warfighters to competitively select the right capabilities to dominate the battlefield," said Andrew "Tippy" Knoedler, HAWC program manager in DARPA's Tactical Technology Office. "These achievements increase the level of technical maturity for transitioning HAWC to a service program of record.
"We are still analyzing flight test data, but are confident that we will provide the U.S. Air Force and Navy with excellent options to diversify the technology available for their future missions."