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Northrop Grumman seeks to speed up HAWC programme

Artist's rendering of the DARPA-USAF Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept. Northrop Grumman, which is teaming with Raytheon on the effort, predicts more flight tests in the next 12–18 months. (DARPA)

Northrop Grumman wants to accelerate the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) programme, on which it is teaming with Raytheon and the Pentagon, and predicts more flight tests in the next 12–18 months.

Rebecca Torzone, Northrop Grumman vice-president of missile products, told reporters on 15 December that a first flight test in September 2021 built confidence around HAWC and demonstrated that the weapon's physics is possible. Much of the Northrop Grumman investment in a company facility in northeast Maryland is to prepare for the completion of design and technology maturation phases of the programme.

β€œWe are looking to go into production,” Torzone said.

Northrop Grumman in July 2021 broke ground on a hypersonics capability centre at its Elkton, Maryland, facility, where it will provide full life-cycle production for hypersonic missile systems, according to a company statement. This full life-cycle production will include design and development through production and integration.

Torzone said this hypersonics capability centre is about ensuring that Northrop Grumman's hypersonic products can both be produced at rate and be delivered to customers. An advantage of this facility will be that manufacturing engineers will sit next to design engineers so they can talk about requirements, she said. Often, engineers can create exquisite designs, but if these are not manufacturable or are not affordable in the manufacturing process, they will not benefit the company, Torzone added.

Northrop Grumman plans to automate case preparation and non-destructive inspection technology, such as x-ray, at the hypersonics capability centre. Construction of this facility is expected to end by 2023.

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