The US Air Force has completed testing of the HAWC hypersonic weapon to serve other weapons development programs.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced on January 30 that it has collaborated with the US Air Force to complete the final test of the naturally aspirated Hypersonic Weapon program (HAWC).
In the test, the missile version of Lockheed Martin equipped with the scramjet Aerojet Rocketdyne engine, which is responsible for continuously compressing air to travel at supersonic speeds, accomplished all the original goals of the program.
“This test by HAWC will provide important data for the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) hypersonic technology perfecting efforts,” DARPA said.
The prototype of the HAWC hypersonic missile produced by Lockheed Martin flew at more than Mach 5 in its final test, reaching an altitude of more than 18,000 m and flying more than 555 km. According to DARPA, this test shows that the capacity and performance of the HAWC missile prototype have been completed.
The HAWC program is entering its final stages, implementers are analyzing test data, and there is still room to improve the technology. After the HAWC program ended, the US had two hypersonic missile designs to perfect and improve in the future, one by Lockheed Martin and one by Raytheon.
DARPA plans to perfect the hypersonic weapon prototype in the More Opportunities with HAWC (MOHAWC) program, which builds and tests more hypersonic vehicles based on progress from HAWC. These prototypes will expand the range of scramjet engines and provide technology for future weapons platforms.
HAWC was originally designed to destroy ground targets but later added the ability to attack warships to increase options for US naval commanders.
It can be mounted on many US Navy aircraft, such as the F-35C, F/A-18E/F, and P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, along with the Air Force’s B-1 and B-52 bombers. US army. However, this is just a proposal and has not been considered by the US military.
Hypersonic missiles are often described as “invisible” weapons due to their high flight speed, combined with their maneuverability in flight, which makes them able to evade most existing missile defense systems. Russia and China claim to have hypersonic weapons, while the US still struggles to develop the program.
Former General John Hyten, in 2021, admitted the US lags behind Russia and China in hypersonic weapons, saying that the US will take many years and have to spend huge resources to regain the leading position in this field.