The United States’ Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced on 27 September that its Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept missile had made its first free flight test the previous week.
In a test jointly conducted with the United States Air Force, the Raytheon Technologies-manufactured hypersonic missile successfully accomplished its primary mission objectives: vehicle integration and release sequence; safe separation from the launch aircraft; booster ignition and boost; booster separation and engine ignition; and cruise.
Raytheon states that the successful test shows that it and Northrop Grumman (which supplies the scramjet engine powering the HAWC) are “on track” to deliver a prototype system, with Colin Whelan, vice president of Advanced Technology at Raytheon Missiles & Defense, saying:
“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.
This test proves we can deliver the first operational hypersonic scramjet, providing a significant increase in warfighting capabilities.”
The HAWC free flight test was a successful demonstration of the capabilities that will make hypersonic cruise missiles a highly effective tool for our warfighters,” said Andrew “Tippy” Knoedler, HAWC program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. “This brings us one step closer to transitioning HAWC to a program of record that offers next generation capability to the U.S military.”
“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,” Knoedler added. “This historic flight would not have been possible without the dedication of industry, U.S. Air Force, and Navy flight test personnel who persevered through the pandemic to make the magic happen.”
The Raytheon-Northrop Grumman HAWC is one of two contenders, with Lockheed Martin also developing a hypersonic missile for the program. Both contenders completed captive flight testing in 2020, with DARPA claiming at the time that initial flight tests would be made by the end of that year. However, this failed to materialize, with Air Force Magazine’s sources claiming that “dumb mistakes” resulted in what would have been the Lockheed missile’s first flight test failing after the missile failed to separate from the B-52 launch platform.