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Air-Launched Weapons

Raytheon prepares for first flight of HAWC prototype demonstrator

21 June 2019
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Raytheon is preparing for the first flight of its scramjet powered air-launched Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) prototype demonstrator ‘in the near term’, Dr Thomas Bussing VP, Advanced Missile Systems, Raytheon disclosed at the Paris Air Show on 18 June.

“We have a flight test planned in the near future, where we will begin flying this particular class of weapon system,” said Bussing. “The upcoming test will be the first flight test that we’ve done, although we’ve already conducted significant ground testing.”

The disclosure was made during the announcement of a teaming agreement between Raytheon and Northrop Grumman Corporation for the development, production, and integration of Northrop Grumman’s scramjet combustors to power Raytheon’s HAWC solution and future air-breathing hypersonic weapons.

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) awarded Raytheon Missile Systems a USD174.7 million contract in October 2016 for research under the joint DARPA/US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) HAWC programme. Lockheed Missiles & Fire Control was awarded similar contract, valued at USD171.2 million, in September of the same year.

The HAWC programme – a follow-on development of DARPA’s earlier Integrated Hypersonics programme – aims to mature and demonstrate critical technologies to inform the development and flight testing of an effective and affordable air-launched hypersonic cruise missile to deliver transformational changes for USAF in responsive, long-range strike capabilities against time-critical or heavily defended targets. These technologies include advanced air vehicle configurations capable of efficient flight; hydrocarbon scramjet-powered propulsion to enable sustained hypersonic cruise; thermal management approaches designed for high-temperature cruise; and affordable system designs and manufacturing approaches.

Scramjet (Supersonic Combustion Ramjet) combustion occurs in supersonic airflow, where the engine relies on high vehicle speed to forcibly compress the incoming air before combustion. Whereas a ramjet decelerates the air to subsonic velocities before combustion, the airflow in a scramjet is supersonic throughout the entire engine, allowing the scramjet to operate efficiently at extremely high speeds.

Artist's rendering of prospective Raytheon hypersonic weapons solutions including boost-glide (left) and scramjet powered air-breathing (right foreground) hypersonic weapons concepts. (Raytheon)Artist's rendering of prospective Raytheon hypersonic weapons solutions including boost-glide (left) and scramjet powered air-breathing (right foreground) hypersonic weapons concepts. (Raytheon)

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