Whatever the nations that will be involved in our planet’s next big war, chances are we’ll probably see, ever so briefly, incredible weapons at work. Like, say, hypersonic rockets, capable of traveling so fast they’ll render defense systems useless.
Several nations are working to develop such systems, and each take turns bragging about their accomplishments. This time, it’s the Americans who beat the drums, after they’ve just completed the first flight test of something called HAWC.
HAWC stands for Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept, and it’s a bit of hardware being developed by Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and Lockheed Martin. We’ve already got wind of the weapon’s successful rocket motor live-fire test which took place back in May. This, time, the entire thing flew, and apparently flew beautifully.
The parties involved announced this week the launch of the HAWC from the underbelly of an undisclosed aircraft as part of a test devised for DARPA and the U.S. Air Force (USAF). The thing flew for an undisclosed distance, and at undisclosed speeds, and the entire affair was deemed as a successful test.
HAWC is a scramjet-powered contraption, meaning one that uses a solid rocket motor that forcibly compresses incoming air and shoves it inside the combustion chamber. This allows the thing to travel at speeds greater than Mach 5 (3,836 mph/6,173 kph), fast enough for most defense systems not to see it coming.
The recent test was devised as a means for HAWC’s builders to validate its airframe and propulsion systems’ capacity of reaching and cruising at hypersonic speeds. Now that these capacities were proven, those involved say they’re on track to “deliver a prototype system to the U.S. Department of Defense.”
“We have reached a milestone in delivering a game-changing capability to the warfighter,” said in a statement Dan Olson, vice president and general manager of Weapon Systems Division for Northrop Grumman. “Decades of learning advanced manufacturing techniques and industry partnerships helped us define what is now possible.”