Raytheon Missiles & Defense, in partnership with Northrop Grumman, has successfully completed the first flight test of a scramjet-powered Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) missile for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the U.S. Air Force. This is a key step toward potentially delivering a cruise missile to the U.S. military that can travel at more than five times the speed of sound.
During the test, the HAWC missile was carried under the wings of an aircraft before it was released. A solid-rocket motor then propelled the weapon to supersonic speed, where the scramjet engine ignited and accelerated the missile, enabling it to reach hypersonic flight.
The test validates the ability of HAWC’s airframe and propulsion system to reach and navigate at hypersonic speeds. The Pentagon says it is the first successful test for this type of weapon since 2013.
“This is a history-making moment, and this success paves the way for an affordable, long-range hypersonic system in the near term to strengthen national security,” said Colin Whelan, vice president of Advanced Technology at Raytheon Missiles & Defense. “This test proves we can deliver the first operational hypersonic scramjet, providing a significant increase in warfighting capabilities.”
Northrop Grumman’s scramjet engine technology works by compressing the air entering the missile at high speed before combustion to enable sustained flight at hypersonic speeds – Mach 5 or greater – which is five times the speed of sound. By traveling at these speeds, hypersonic weapons like HAWC are able to reach their targets more quickly than traditional missiles, allowing them to potentially evade defense systems.
“We have reached a milestone in delivering a game-changing capability to the warfighter,” said Dan Olson, vice president and general manager of Weapon Systems Division for Northrop Grumman. “Decades of learning advanced manufacturing techniques and industry partnerships helped us define what is now possible.”
Raytheon Technologies and Northrop Grumman are working together to deliver functional air-breathing hypersonic weapons under a $200 million contract with DARPA and the U.S. Air Force. The agreement enables both companies to combine their capabilities to accelerate development and demonstrate readiness to produce the next generation of tactical missile systems.