U.S. conducts successful test of hypersonic weapon: Pentagon
The U.S. has tested an air-breathing hypersonic weapon capable of speeds five times faster than the speed of sound, marking the first successful test of this class of weapon since 2013, the Pentagon said on Monday.
The free-flight test of the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) took place last week, the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) said in a statement.
"This brings us one step closer to transitioning HAWC to a program of record that offers next generation capability to the U.S. military," said Andrew Knoedler, HAWC program manager in DARPA's Tactical Technology Office. There is no target date for that transition, but Knoedler told Reuters, "we are readying our next vehicles and working toward additional flight tests later in the year."
Hypersonic weapons travel in the upper atmosphere at speeds of about 6,200 kilometers per hour.
"The missile, built by Raytheon Technologies, was released from an aircraft seconds before its Northrop Grumman scramjet (supersonic combustion ramjet) engine kicked on," DARPA said.
"The DoD (Department of Defense) has identified hypersonic weapons and counter-hypersonic capabilities as the highest technical priorities for our nation's security," said Wes Kremer, president of Raytheon's Missiles & Defense business unit.
"The United States, and our allies, must have the ability to deter the use of these weapons and the capabilities to defeat them," he said.
In 2019, Raytheon teamed up with Northrop Grumman to develop and produce engines for hypersonic weapons. Northrop's scramjet engine technology uses the vehicle's high speed to forcibly compress incoming air before combustion to enable sustained flight at hypersonic speeds.
"The 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," DARPA said in a statement.