The DARPA/U.S. Air Force hypersonic suction weapon concept will be tested for free flight.

Two variants of the hypersonic suction weapon concept (HAWC), which is being developed for DARPA and the U.S. Air Force, have completed their final carrier tests and have been allowed to conduct their first free flight tests within the next year,media new Atlas reported. Since breaking the sound barrier in 1947, countries have competed to develop hypersonic weapons, which could revolutionized the wars of the 21st century.

The DARPA/U.S. Air Force hypersonic suction weapon concept will be tested for free flight.

Hypersonic missiles and aircraft capable of flying at more than five times the speed of sound will truly surpass conventional weapons. They also allow the target system to lock them down in a very short period of time, and they are so powerful that some do not even need explosives to destroy the target.

However, to achieve this goal and to make hypersonic weapons practical, some technologies need to mature. Specifically, such missiles require a new generation of flight control and eso electronics, cooling systems that combat the high temperatures generated by hypersonic flight, and propulsion systems capable of operating at hypersonic speeds.

The latter is particularly important because most hypersonic vehicles currently being tested are boost-gliding weapons, which are launched from aircraft, rocket-propelled to hypersonic at high altitudes, and then glided to their targets. This means that the missile must be launched at a very long distance and requires that when the missile reaches its target, the target must be in a more or less predictable place.

The goal of the HAWC project is basically to build a hypersonic cruise missile. This would allow the weapon to be launched at low altitudes, closer to the target, and would produce a more mobile missile that would be more difficult to detect.

To achieve this, contractors Lockheed Martin and Raytheon are developing advanced aircraft configurations that will use hydrocarbon stamping jet propulsion and thermal management systems for continuous hypersonic flight in the first free-flying test.

“The completion of the carrier test series shows that both HAWC designs are ready for free flight,” said Andrew “Tippy” Knoedler, HAWC project manager at DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office.