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Second HAWC Launch Accomplishes All Test Objectives

HAWC illustration [© Lockheed Martin]

DARPA, AFRL, Lockheed Martin and Aerojet Rocketdyne Team’s second HAWC launched from B-52 accomplishes all test objectives.

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Lockheed Martin Press Release, Palmdale CA, 30 January 2023: The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Air Force Research Lab (AFRL), Lockheed Martin and Aerojet Rocketdyne team accomplished their primary objectives during its second Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) flight test doubling the amount of scramjet powered vehicle data.

Launching from a B-52, the HAWC system’s first stage boosted it to the targeted engine ignition envelope, where the Aerojet Rocketdyne scramjet engine fired and accelerated the system to speeds in excess of Mach 5. The system performed as predicted travelling more than 300 nautical miles and reaching altitudes above 60,000 feet.

“Affordability and reliability are essential as we work to develop operational hypersonic solutions,” said John Clark, vice president and general manager Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. “Both of our HAWC flight tests launched from an operational aircraft and matched performance models and predictions to aid affordable, rapid development of future hypersonic weapons.”

The Lockheed Martin Skunk Works and Aerojet Rocketdyne team worked together to progress low-cost advanced manufacturing technologies, prioritising extreme durability to vastly reduce piece and part cost. Through the purposeful integration of digital technologies throughout the design, test, and manufacturing process, the team validated that hypersonic systems can be produced affordably at the rates required to meet the urgent national need.

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Artist’s concept of Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapons Concept (HAWC) vehicle [© DARPA]

DARPA Press Release, Arlington VA, 30 January 2023: The joint DARPA and US. Air Force Hypersonic Airbreathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) completed yet another successful flight test. The Lockheed Martin version of the missile, with its Aerojet Rocketdyne scramjet, capped a programme that accomplished all of its initial objectives. It was the final flight test for HAWC, which is providing critical data to inform Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) hypersonic technology maturation efforts.

“This month’s flight added an exclamation point to the most successful hypersonic airbreathing flight test programme in US history,” said Walter Price, an Air Force deputy for the HAWC programme. “The things we’ve learned from HAWC will certainly enhance future US. Air Force capabilities.”

The Lockheed Martin missile again flew at speeds greater than Mach 5, higher than 60,000 feet, and farther than 300 nautical miles. This latest flight demonstrated improved capabilities and performance. The nation’s hypersonic portfolio now has two feasible hypersonic airbreathing missile designs (Lockheed Martin and Raytheon) to improve and mature in the future.

“The HAWC programme created a generation of new hypersonic engineers and scientists,” said Andrew “Tippy” Knoedler, the HAWC programme manager. “HAWC also brought a wealth of data and progress to the airbreathing hypersonic community. The industry teams attacked the challenge of scramjet-powered vehicles in earnest, and we had the grit and luck to make it work.”

Even though the HAWC programme has executed the final phase of the programme, there is still data to analyse and more opportunities to mature the technology. DARPA plans to continue that maturation in the More Opportunities with HAWC (MOHAWC) programme by building and flying more vehicles that build upon HAWC’s advances. Those missiles will expand the operating envelope of the scramjet and provide technology on-ramps for future programmes of record.

“We had our share of difficulties,” said Knoedler. “Through a pandemic, a strained supply chain, and atmospheric rivers, our industry partners forged ahead, mitigating the risks where they could and accepting others. They delivered on their promises, proving the feasibility of the concept.”

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