The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) successfully executed the free-flight test of the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) in partnership with the U.S. Air Force, a press release said.
Earlier in July, Russia also tested its hypersonic cruise missile, Tsirkon. The hypersonic cruise missile depends on an air-breathing engine to take it to speeds greater than Mach 5 (five times the speed of sound).
The missile was made by Raytheon Technologies. It was reported by Business Insider that the scramjet engine was developed by Northrop Grumman and it worked by compressing the incoming air while mixing it with hydrocarbon fuel before igniting this airflow mixture leading to high propulsion speeds.
There was more than one objective of the mission. It included vehicle integration and release sequence, safe separation from the launch aircraft, booster ignition and boost, booster separation and engine ignition, and cruise and confirmed that all were met. The U.S. Air Force’s hypersonic missile, Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) has failed twice to demonstrate these essential parameters for an air-launched weapon.
The HWAC is at its best when working in a place with abundant oxygen. Its hypersonic speed also makes it an effective kinetic weapon even without high explosives.
Reuters reported, “HAWC’s successful free-flight test is the culmination of years of successful government and industry partnership, where a single, purpose-driven team accomplished an extremely challenging goal through intense collaboration,” said Andrew Knoedler, HAWC program manager at DARPA. “This brings us one step closer to transitioning HAWC to a program of record that offers the next-generation capability to the U.S military.”