HAWC – US Hypersonic Missile Test Successful; Kept Quiet Due to Russia Tensions

Faye Higbee
Artist’s conception

A US Hypersonic Missile test was successful last month, according to the Pentagon. The test was the second of the hypersonic system known as HAWC (Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept). The first successful test was conducted in September of 2021 with a different design from Raytheon with a Northrup-Grumman Scramjet engine. This second test was a Lockheed Martin endeavor, in conjunction with DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) with an Aerojet Rocketdyne scramjet. An ICBM Minuteman missile test was to take place in March also, but was delayed due to concerns over a misunderstanding with Russia. The HAWC missiles destroy by their kinetic energy, since they do not carry nuclear warheads.

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The goals of the test were: vehicle integration and release sequence, safe separation from the launch aircraft, booster ignition and boost, booster separation and engine ignition, and cruise. Accordng to DARPA, all of the test measurements were a success.

The September test:

The March Test

This Lockheed Martin HAWC flight test successfully demonstrated a second design that will allow our warfighters to competitively select the right capabilities to dominate the battlefield.

Andrew Knoedler, HAWC programme manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office.

The “carrier aircraft” was a B-52 Stratofortress, according to Defense News. Hypersonic missiles are highly maneuverable and can evade defense systems. Russia has already used theirs in the war in Ukraine. according to Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters. The ARRW system used for hypersonics has had numerous setbacks, so the HAWC has come into play.

The B-52H Stratofortress – Screenshot of US Air Force photo by Matt Wiliams

The details of the test flight were meager, and they delayed the press release for a couple of weeks due to the war in Ukraine and its subsequent sanctions raising tensions with Russia.

A DARPA release Tuesday said the HAWC missile was boosted until its air-breathing, Aerojet-made scramjet engine ignited and quickly accelerated to speeds faster than Mach 5. DARPA said it maintained that speed for an extended period of time, reached altitudes higher than 65,000 feet, and flew for more [than] 300 nautical miles…

He compared the Pentagon’s decision not to immediately reveal the test to its decision to postpone a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile test in early March. That ICBM test was delayed after Russian President Vladimir Putin put his nation’s nuclear forces on higher alert, and the Pentagon said it wanted to avoid any possible misunderstanding over the Minuteman test.

Defense News

Now that we know the United State has a functioning hypersonic missile system, can all of us relax? Not on your life.


Featured screenshot via Lockheed Martin

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