DARPA/U.S. Air Force HAWC Hypersonic Missile Accidentally Destroyed During Captive-Carry Flight Test: Report

A hypersonic missile being developed under the joint DARPA/U.S. Air Force Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) program was destroyed in a recent test accident, Aviation Week reported citing sources.

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, is thought to be from the USAF’s 419th Flight Test Squadron (419 FLTS) at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB) in California.

The report added that the cause of the mishap is under investigation.

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.

The Aviation Week report said that the Lockheed Martin HAWC variant is believed to be involved in the recent incident. The HAWC program is already several months behind an original schedule that called for the first flight in 2019.

A rendering of High Speed Strike Weapon (HSSW), a hypersonic conventional strike missile concept by Lockheed Martin. (Lockheed Martin Photo)
Raytheon-Northrop Grumman hypersonic missile concept. (Raytheon Photo.)

Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC)

The HAWC program is a joint Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (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.

The program intends to emphasize efficient, rapid and affordable flight tests to validate key technologies.

HAWC 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

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