DARPA's scramjet-powered hypersonic missile completes third test

By Shelley K. Mesch / July 18, 2022 at 3:48 PM

The Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept successfully completed its third test earlier this month, according to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced today.

This was the second successful test with a Raytheon Technologies-built vehicle using a scramjet built by Northrop Grumman, the Monday news release states. The missile traveled at hypersonic speeds for more than 300 nautical miles and reached altitudes above 60,000 feet.

The HAWC missile was launched from an aircraft and accelerated to hypersonic speeds using its scramjet engine, according to a release from Northrop Grumman. Engineers designed the test to “intentionally stress the weapon concept to explore its limits and further validate digital performance models,” it states.

“The test demonstrated how we’ve rapidly matured affordable scramjet technology, which is the basis for air-breathing weapons,” President of Advanced Technology for Raytheon Missiles & Defense Colin Whelan said in a news release. “Our second HAWC flight test success is an important milestone for our nation as we advance hypersonic systems.”

The scramjet engine compresses incoming air before it is combusted to propel the missile at speeds above Mach 5, according to DARPA. The missiles are designed for speed and maneuverability for quick strikes and defense evasion.

Raytheon and Northrop, which began a partnership in 2019 to work on HAWC, first tested their missile in September. Partners Lockheed Martin and Aerojet Rocketdyne tested their variant of HAWC successfully this past spring.

DARPA, in its fiscal year 2023 budget justification document, asked for $60 million to fund a project its calling MoHAWC. The program is intended to “build upon” HAWC.

“MoHAWC will develop, integrate, and demonstrate technologies to increase effectiveness and producibility of an air-launched hypersonic cruise missile,” the justification document states.

No funds were requested to further HAWC.