The US Defense Advanced Projects Agency (DARPA) and the USAF announced on 1 September that two variants of the Hypersonic Air-Breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) have successfully completed captive carry tests and are ready to proceed to first free-flight tests before the end of 2020.

The joint programme seeks to develop and demonstrate critical technologies to enable an effective and affordable air-launched hypersonic cruise missile. HAWC performers Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Technologies have each tested advanced air vehicle configurations that promise to achieve and sustain efficient hypersonic flight. Their upcoming flight tests will focus on scramjet-powered propulsion and thermal management techniques to enable prolonged hypersonic cruise, in addition to affordable system designs and manufacturing approaches.

Completing the captive carry series of tests demonstrates both HAWC designs are ready for free flight,” commented Andrew Knoedler, HAWC Program Manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. “These tests provide us a large measure of confidence – already well informed by years of simulation and wind tunnel work – that gives us faith the unique design path we embarked on will provide unmatched capability to US forces.”

HAWC has been a joint DARPA/USAF programme since inception. In addition, DARPA is working in cooperation with military services and agencies, including the Missile Defense Agency, US Navy and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to validate and eventually transition key technologies. The extensive flight data collected is intended to increase the confidence in air-breathing hypersonic systems and reduce risks to potential future acquisition programmes.

Transition from captive carry to free-flight testing will be the next fundamental step in the joint DARPA/USAF HAWC programme. (Artist’s concept via DARPA)

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