DARPA awards extra funding for scramjet-powered hypersonic weapon program

Defense technology giants Raytheon and Northrop Grumman have been awarded a follow-on project to further develop hypersonic air-breathing weapons.
Christopher McFadden
Concept art of future hypersonic cruise missile.


Raytheon and the Northrop Grumman Corporation have been awarded a follow-on contract by DARPA to expand and validate Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) flight vehicles. Raytheon and Northrop Grumman signed an agreement in June 2019 to collaborate to develop air-breathing hypersonic weapons.

The Raytheon-built missile and Northrop Grumman-supplied scramjet engines were chosen for the $200 million HAWC program to deliver a functional system for DARPA and USAF. The two companies used their experience to showcase readiness for future missile systems. The agreement allows continued collaboration on HAWC and other hypersonic missiles.

Future cruise missile

The HAWC is a hypersonic air-to-air combat missile concept developed and tested by DARPA and the USAF to demonstrate critical technologies for delivering an affordable air-launched hypersonic cruise missile. The long-range missile, which operates at speeds exceeding Mach 5, is being developed by Raytheon Missiles and Defense and Northrop Grumman, with Lockheed Martin as a competitor.

The HAWC program was completed with Lockheed Martin's design passing the final flight test in January 2023. DARPA plans to use the gathered data and knowledge to advance HAWC technology through its follow-on program, More Opportunities with HAWC (MOHAWC).

"We applied learnings from each successful HAWC flight test to ensure that it is the most sophisticated system of its kind," said Colin Whelan, president of Advanced Technology for Raytheon. "Continuing this important program will expand our knowledge of hypersonic flight and allow us to deliver the critical capability our warfighters need," he added.

The team uses data and lessons from earlier stages to improve the design of the weapon concept. They aim to incorporate manufacturing improvements and expand the operating envelope through flight tests while validating system performance models. The airframe and engine designs align closely with the US Air Force's Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile (HACM).

"The HAWC follow-on contract serves as an engine pathfinder program in our new production-ready Hypersonics Capability Center in Elkton, Maryland," said Dan Olson, general manager and vice president of weapons systems, Northrop Grumman. "Our factory of the future will seamlessly transition our validated propulsion system design into an operationally ready system to support further flight testing," he added.

Powered by scramjet

Since 2013, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman have partnered to develop and integrate Northrop Grumman's scramjet engines onto Raytheon's hypersonic weapons. In 2019, they signed a teaming agreement to continue the partnership. Recently, the team was selected to develop HACM, a next-generation tactical missile system. Their combined efforts have enabled the production of air-breathing hypersonic weapons.

Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron
Job Board