Lockheed Martin has created and successfully tested a ramjet-powered hypersonic missile. Yesterday, April 7, the press service of the Defense Advanced Projects Agency (DARPA) of the U.S. Department of Defense announced the successful testing of a Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) missile.
The missile, developed by Lockheed Martin, successfully separated from the aircraft, accelerated, and maintained a cruise speed above Mach 5, five times the speed of sound, “for an extended period of time.” The missile reached an altitude of over 65,000 feet (19.8 km) and flew over 300 nautical miles (555 km).
The test was carried out with a hypersonic missile being developed as part of the Concept of Hypersonic Air-Reactive Weapons. The missile was launched over the Pacific Ocean from a B-52 bomber.
Back in 2020, DARPA indicated that both types of missiles developed by Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Technologies had successfully passed aircraft compatibility testing. All flights during which the prototype missiles were installed under the wing passed without comment from representatives of DARPA and the U.S. Air Force. Flight tests of the HAWC rocket developed by Raytheon Technologies were successfully completed in September last year.
HAWC is one of the many U.S. Department of Defense programs to create hypersonic weapons. HAWC “works best in an oxygen-rich atmosphere, where speed and manoeuvrability make timely detection difficult.” Also, according to the developers, the rocket has significant kinetic energy, which allows it to be used even without high-explosive explosives.
In June 2020, as part of such tests, an incident occurred at Andrews Air Force Base where the missile separated from the carrier aircraft B-52 strategic bomber unplanned and collapsed. In December 2020, Air Force Magazine, citing sources familiar with the test, wrote that the first flight tests of the HAWC failed as the rocket could not be launched from the carrier aircraft. Air Force Magazine sources claimed that the Lockheed Martin missile was tested in this incident.
The first launch of the US HAWC hypersonic missile took place in September 2021. Before this, Pentagon had tested a hypersonic glide vehicle.
Russia to test ramjet-powered hypersonic missiles
Russia is also developing hypersonic weapons with a ramjet under the GZUR index (hypersonic guided missile, also known as Gremlin) and another product known as Ostrota. Like the American HAWC project, the output is planned to be a relatively small-sized aircraft weapon, presumably non-nuclear, which can be carried by a tactical aircraft.
Unlike hypersonic gliders, the Russian Avangard belongs to this type; ramjet-powered hypersonic weapons are smaller and more accurate.
The tests of the Russian hypersonic missile with the Ostrota ramjet are scheduled for 2022 and the Gremlin for 2023.
In mid-March, the Russian Ministry of Defense reported that the Russian Kinzhal hypersonic systems destroyed a large base for storing fuel and lubricants for the Ukrainian military in the Mykolaiv (or Nikolaev) region.
AUKUS to work on hypersonic missiles
The U.S., the United Kingdom, and Australia, on Tuesday, April 5, agreed to develop hypersonic weapons within the framework of the AUKUS military bloc.
The U.S. and Australia already have a hypersonic weapons program called SCIFiRE. British officials have said that while the U.K. will not join the program, for the time being, the three countries will work together on research and development in this area to expand their capabilities.