In March, Lockheed Martin and DARPA conducted a successful test of Lockheed Martin’s Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile [HACM] powered by a scramjet.
Although the information has not been officially released, experts say that during the HACM test it reached a speed just above Mach 5 at an altitude of 65,000 feet and a distance of 300 miles. At these parameters, this means that the missile has reached its final destination in less than 5 minutes.
According to US sources, the test was performed on the west coast of the United States. The missile was fired from aboard the B-52 Stratofortress bomber. The missile propulsion process was two-step – a rocket booster provided conventional acceleration, and a Lockheed Martin scramjet provided maximum speed to the final destination.
The development of hypersonic weapons is under the auspices of DARPA. This test is actually the second success for the agency. The first was held a few months ago with a missile HAWC built by Raytheon and also powered by a scramjet, but built by Northrop Grumman. Raytheon and Lockheed are fighting for the design, development, and production of next-generation hypersonic missiles.
The tests are important because they assess the behavior of the rocket after it is powered by jet engines to achieve hypersonic speeds. These missiles fly like planes in a stable trajectory. This allows them to be highly maneuverable, which helps to avoid being intercepted by an enemy anti-aircraft missile system. Experts from around the world say there is currently no technology that can intercept a hypersonic missile.
The use of scramjet is also key to American defense. Russia and China have hypersonic missiles and are leaders in the field where hypersonic missiles have boost-glide weapons, while the United States is focusing its efforts on using scramjet-powered hypersonic missiles. If the United States succeeds in developing sustainable scramjet-powered hypersonic weapons, it will be a breakthrough in this field, as this technology has been studied for decades, but there is still no successful scramjet-powered vehicle.
DARPA says this and previous tests offer ample opportunities for US defense, as well as a choice of two excellent weapons that will ultimately be evaluated and selected by the US military, following the principle of competitiveness and operational capability to dominate the battlefield.