Raytheon, the missile maker, has taken the veils off a new scramjet-powered weapon that has been designed to take out enemy targets while allowing for minimal reaction time of enemy air defenses. The unnamed weapon would be capable of traveling at speeds higher than Mach 5 equivalent of 3,800 miles per hour.
The missile design was used on the Raytheon website while discussing hypersonic weapon systems and the appearance coincided with the Paris Air Show. As of right now, there are two kinds of hypersonic propulsion weapons; boost-glide and scramjets. Hypersonic boost-glide weapons as the AGM-183 ARRW are provided with a boost using ballistic missiles to near-space and then allowed to glide towards their target. They are unpowered once they are separated from the missile and simply glide towards their target.
The second type of hypersonic propulsion technique, scramjets, is what powers the Raytheon’s latest weapon concept. The weapon features a small booster stage where a conventional rocket motor would be designed to accelerate the missile up to the speed where the scramjet can take over. Similar to all air-breathing engines, the scramjet intakes the onrushing air and then forces it into a combustion chamber thus using the exhaust as thrust.
Scramjets are designed in a way that they are able to intake air while moving at supersonic speeds, thus allowing for greater volumes of air to pass through them. Scramjet is short for ‘supersonic combustion ramjet’. More air equals more fuel and thus more speed. Pentagon currently has a few hypersonic weapons that are undergoing development. Hypersonic weapons will serve as the new frontier in weapon propulsion since they are capable of hitting targets without being intercepted on account of their high speeds.
Raytheon’s hypersonic weapon concept is similar to the X-51A Waverider that was developed by Lockheed Martin. As of right now, there is no timeline for the Raytheon’s scramjet missile. However, there is an indication that the company will be conducting flight tests on hypersonic weapons in about two to four years.