The U.S Air Force Has Added Air-Breathing Hypersonic Missiles To Its Arsenal

The US Air Force granted Raytheon Missiles and Defense a $985,348,124 contract to develop and demonstrate Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile prototypes, highlighting the USAF’s dedication to enhancing interoperability with allies and partners to remain ahead of strategic competitors.

The HACM is an air-launched, scramjet-powered hypersonic weapon designed to keep high-value targets at danger from standoff range in disputed scenarios.

“HACM is a powerful example of developing and integrating combat capabilities alongside our partners from the beginning,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr.

“HACM will provide our commanders with tactical flexibility to employ fighters to hold high-value, time-sensitive targets at risk while maintaining bombers for other strategic targets.”

In 2020, the USAF and Australia signed a multi-year bilateral project agreement known as the Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment to build air-breathing hypersonic cruise missile prototypes.

Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp., and Raytheon Technologies Corp. were granted three 15-month SCIFiRE contracts in June 2021 to complete basic designs for a hypersonic cruise missile.

The HACM program will operationalize the Raytheon SCIFiRE prototype design for fighter aircraft integration and provide two operationally useful leave-behind assets.

“We have over a decade of cooperation with our Australian allies in the advancement of hypersonic technologies, and now we will bring that shared knowledge to bear to address urgent national defence requirements,” said Andrew Hunter, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics.

The United States and Australia will continue to collaborate on HACM design and development under the SCIFiRE agreement, including the use of Australian test facilities for the initial all-up-round flying testing.

According to Air Vice Marshal Robert Denney, AM, Head of Air Force Capability for the Royal Australian Air Force, SCIFiRE gives an opportunity to understand and influence the future of hypersonic weapons research and acquisition.

“SCIFiRE demonstrates our commitment with the U.S. to strengthen capability outcomes, deepen our alliance and strengthen our cooperation as we meet emerging challenges and support regional endeavours.”

The Air Force intends to deliver an operationally useful HACM capability by 2027.

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