The combined DARPA and U.S. Air Force Hypersonic Airbreathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) flight test was once again successful.

With its Aerojet Rocketdyne scramjet, the Lockheed Martin version of the missile capped a program that accomplished all of its initial objectives.

It was the last flight test for HAWC, which gave the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) important information to help it improve hypersonic technology.

The Lockheed Martin missile flew again faster than Mach 5, higher than 60,000 feet, and farther than 300 nautical miles. This latest flight showed that Its abilities and performance had gotten better.

The United States now has two practical designs for hypersonic airbreathing missiles (Lockheed Martin and Raytheon).

The HAWC initiative trained the next wave of hypersonic researchers and developers. The community of air-breathing hypersonic vehicles also benefited greatly from the information and developments offered by HAWC. Commercial teams dove headfirst into the problem of creating reliable scramjet power for vehicles, and we mustered the determination and good fortune to succeed.

Of course, we ran into a few problems here and there. Our business partners pushed forward in the face of a pandemic, a stretched supply chain, and atmospheric floods, reducing certain risks while accepting others.

Program manager for the HAWC, Andrew “Tippy” Knoedler, remarked that the team’s ability to deliver on their promises demonstrated the concept’s viability.

“This month’s flight adds an exclamation point to the most successful hypersonic airbreathing flight test programme in United States history,” said Air Force HAWC programme deputy Walter Price. The lessons we’ve learned from HAWC will undoubtedly improve the future capabilities of the U.S. Air Force.

The Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC, pronounced “hawk”) is an air-launched hypersonic cruise missile fueled by a scramjet in development by the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

There is no explosive warhead; instead, it uses kinetic energy. The HAWC initiative has completed its last implementation phase, but there is still data to be analyzed and room for the technology to advance.

As part of its More Opportunities with HAWC (MOHAWC) initiative, DARPA wants to continue developing and testing new vehicles that expand upon HAWC’s successes.

Those missiles will increase the scramjet’s usable range and pave the way for its incorporation in future programs of record. The scramjet allowed the missile to travel at “a speed greater than Mach 5 (about 3,700 miles per hour)”.

The smaller HAWC might launch from more platforms than hypersonic glide vehicles. White added that HAWC might better incorporate seekers. In FY2023, DARPA sought $60 million for MoHAWC, the HAWC replacement.

DARPA announced the third successful HAWC flight test on July 18, 2022; the missile flew at a speed of Mach 5 (6,100 km/h; 3,800 mph) for more than 300 nautical miles at an altitude of more than 60,000 feet (18 kilometers; 11 miles) (560 km; 350 mi).

The Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile (HACM) is a Program of Record for the United States Air Force to develop a scramjet-powered hypersonic missile suitable for operational deployment. This missile builds on technology developed for the HAWC demonstrator.

The contracts to develop HACM further were awarded to Raytheon in September 2022. HACM will use a Northrop Grumman scramjet.