The United States has successfully tested a Raytheon hypersonic weapon – an air-breathing hypersonic weapon capable of speeds faster than five times the speed of sound, according to an announcement by the Pentagon on Monday.
The mission, which resulted in the first successful test of this type of cruise missile since 2013, was completed by the US Air Force, in partnership with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
The free flight test of the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) took place last week, and demonstrated the weapon to have “highly effective” capabilities, said Andrew Knoedler, program manager at DARPA, in a statement.
Mr Knoedler added: “HAWC’s successful free flight test is the culmination of years of successful government and industry partnership, where a single, purpose-driven team accomplished an extremely challenging goal through intense collaboration.”
He added: “This historic flight would not have been possible without the dedication of industry, U.S. Air Force, and Navy flight test personnel who persevered through the pandemic to make the magic happen.”
The mission aimed to test, among other aspects, safe separation from the launch aircraft, booster ignition and engine ignition. According to a DARPA press release, all primary test objectives were met.
Built by Raytheon Technologies, the HAWC missile’s engine propelled the cruiser at a speed greater than Mach 5 – five times the speed of sound.
The press release detailed: “HAWC vehicle operates best in oxygen-rich atmosphere, where speed and maneuverability make it difficult to detect in a timely way. It could strike targets much more quickly than subsonic missiles and has significant kinetic energy even without high explosives.”
Mr Knoedler added: “The HAWC free flight test was a successful demonstration of the capabilities that will make hypersonic cruise missiles a highly effective tool for our warfighters. This brings us one step closer to transitioning HAWC to a program of record that offers next generation capability to the US military.”