The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Air Force Research Lab (AFRL), Lockheed Martin and Aerojet Rocketdyne team flight tested the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC). The test flight reached speeds in excess of Mach 5, altitudes greater than 65,000 feet and helped further the understanding of operations in the high-speed flight regime, the companies said.
Air-breathing vehicles use air captured from the atmosphere to achieve sustained propulsion, according to DARPA. The speed and maneuverability of such hypersonic cruise missiles allow both evasion of defenses and quick strikes and their kinetic energy can destroy targets even without high explosives.
This is the second successful flight in DARPA’s HAWC program. Last September, a different vehicle configuration from another contractor team also reached hypersonic flight.
“We are still analyzing flight test data, but are confident that we will provide the U.S. Air Force and Navy with excellent options to diversify the technology available for their future missions,” said Andrew "Tippy" Knoedler, HAWC program manager in DARPA's Tactical Technology Office.
Lockheed Martin said it supports multiple hypersonic systems development projects and that it's "weaving a digital thread" throughout the design, test and manufacturing process to ensure it can produce hypersonic systems at the required rates.
"Our work with DARPA and AFRL on the HAWC program demonstrates that air-breathing hypersonic systems are a cost-effective solution to address rapidly emerging threats in the global security arena," said John Clark, vice president and general manager Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. "The success of this flight test is evidence that a strong partnership between government and industry is key to solving our nation's most difficult challenges and enabling new capabilities to counter threats to U.S. and allied forces."