U.S. and Australia join forces to develop air-breathing hypersonic missiles

The U.S. Department of Defense and the Australian Department of Defence have entered into an agreement to develop air-breathing hypersonic missiles under the Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment (SCIFiRE) program.

The SCIFiRE effort aims to cooperatively advance air-breathing hypersonic technologies into full-size prototypes that are affordable and provide a flexible, long-range capability, culminating in flight demonstrations in operationally relevant conditions.

SCIFiRE is a true testament to the enduring friendship and strong partnership between the United States and Australia,” said Michael Kratsios, Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. “This initiative will be essential to the future of hypersonic research and development, ensuring the U.S. and our allies lead the world in the advancement of this transformational warfighting capability.

Australia is the newest country to join in developing hypersonic weapons. Some countries that have openly developed hypersonic missiles are the U.S., Russia, and China. From a U.S. perspective, these efforts fall under the Allied Prototyping Initiative (API), managed by the Directorate for Advanced Capabilities within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering.

Other details about the technologies were not disclosed. In the SCIFiRE project, it is planned to use the developments obtained by Australian specialists under the Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation (HIFiRE) program. The rocket, developed by the HIFiRE project, is made in two stages. The second stage of the ammunition is equipped with a hypersonic ramjet engine. During several test launches, the missile showed the possibility of a stable hypersonic flight at speeds above Mach 5.5, or more than five times the speed of sound.

The SCIFiRE program will leverage the collaborative work being carried out in partnership with the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, the Royal Australian Air Force Headquarters, and the Australian Defence Science and Technology Group.

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