DARPA and the U.S. Air Force (USAF) announced successful completion of captive carry tests of two variants of the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC).
HAWC is a joint Agency and Service effort which seeks to develop and demonstrate critical technologies to enable an effective and affordable air-launched hypersonic cruise missile. HAWC performers Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Technologies have each tested advanced air vehicle configurations that promise to achieve and sustain efficient hypersonic flight.
A DARPA statement said that, with the completion of tests, the agency and the Air Force are ready to proceed to first free-flight testing within the calendar year.
“Completing the captive carry series of tests demonstrates both HAWC designs are ready for free flight,” said Andrew “Tippy” Knoedler, HAWC program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. “These tests provide us a large measure of confidence – already well informed by years of simulation and wind tunnel work – that gives us faith the unique design path we embarked on will provide unmatched capability to U.S. forces.”
The upcoming flight tests will focus on hydrocarbon scramjet-powered propulsion and thermal management techniques to enable prolonged hypersonic cruise, in addition to affordable system designs and manufacturing approaches.
The HAWC program, since inception, has been executed as a joint program between DARPA and the USAF. In addition, DARPA is working in cooperation with military services and agencies, including the Missile Defense Agency, U.S. Navy, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to validate, and eventually transition key technologies. The extensive flight data collected is intended to increase the confidence in air-breathing hypersonic systems and reduce the risks to potential future acquisition programs across the U.S. government.
The HAWC program is already several months behind an original schedule that called for the first flight in 2019.
HAWC Test Accident:
In June, Aviation Week reported that a hypersonic missile being developed under the HAWC program was destroyed in a test accident.
According to the report, the scramjet-powered missile is believed to have inadvertently separated from a B-52 carrier aircraft during a captive carry flight test. The B-52 Stratofortress bomber, which acted as the carrier aircraft, was thought to be from the USAF’s 419th Flight Test Squadron (419 FLTS) at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB) in California.
The Aviation Week report said that the Lockheed Martin HAWC variant is believed to be involved in the incident.
DARPA-USAF Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) Program
The Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) program is a joint DARPA/U.S. Air Force (USAF) effort that seeks to develop and demonstrate critical technologies to enable an effective and affordable air-launched hypersonic cruise missile (hypersonic ALCM). The program intends to emphasize efficient, rapid and affordable flight tests to validate key technologies.
The HAWC program plans to pursue flight demonstrations to address three critical technology challenge areas or program pillars—air vehicle feasibility, effectiveness, and affordability. Technologies of interest include:
+ Advanced air vehicle configurations capable of efficient hypersonic flight
+ Hydrocarbon scramjet-powered propulsion to enable sustained hypersonic cruise
+ Approaches to managing the thermal stresses of high-temperature cruise
+ Affordable system designs and manufacturing approaches
Lockheed Martin and Raytheon are developing HAWC demonstrators for the program. Lockheed Martin’s HAWC demonstrator is powered by an Aerojet Rocketdyne scramjet engine while Raytheon’s demonstrator is powered by a Northrop Grumman scramjet combustor.