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USAF, DARPA complete Lockheed Martin‘s HAWC test flight

Lockheed Martin's Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) completed a flight test in mid-March 2022. (Lockheed Martin Aeronautics)

Lockheed Martin's Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) completed a free flight test in mid-March, the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced on 5 April.

The weapon was released from a Boeing B-52H Stratofortress bomber, a DARPA spokesperson told Janes. Then its Aerojet Rocketdyne supersonic combustion ramjet (scramjet) engine ignited and sent the prototype weapon to more than five times the speed of sound (Mach 5) for “an extended period of time”, according to the agency. It hit altitudes of more than 65,000 ft and flew for more than 300 n miles.

A Pentagon official told Janes that the announcement of Lockheed Martin's HAWC test was delayed so as to avoid provocations amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The HAWC's engine uses air captured from the atmosphere for propulsion, according to DARPA, giving it speed and manoeuvrability that enable “both evasion of defences and quick strikes”. The weapon can use its kinetic energy, as opposed to a high-explosive payload, to destroy targets.

The event marked the second “successful” test for DARPA and the US Air Force's (USAF‘s) HAWC programme. A Raytheon Technologies and Northrop Grumman team is building its own version of the hypersonic weapon. A test of that configuration was completed in September 2021.

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