The United States successfully tested a HAWC hypersonic missile in mid-March, but remained silent to avoid escalating tensions with Russia. A source in the defense sector told CNN that the decision was made because President Joe Biden was about to travel to Europe.
According to the official, the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) was launched from a B-52 bomber off the West Coast during the first successful test of a version of the system from Lockheed Martin. The accelerator engine accelerated the rocket to high speed, after which the hypersonic direct-flow air-jet engine pushed the rocket to a hypersonic speed of Mach 5 and above.
The official provided a minimum of details of the missile test, noting only that it flew to an altitude of more than 19 thousand meters and a distance of more than 480 km. But even at the lower limit of hypersonic speed – about 6115 km per hour – a flight of 480 km takes less than 5 minutes.
The tests came days after Russia said it used its own hypersonic missile during the invasion of Ukraine, claiming it had struck an ammunition depot in the west part of the country.
However, the “Kinzhal” missile is simply an aerial version of Russia’s “Iskander” short-range ballistic missile. In other words, it is a kind of established technology in contrast to the revolution in hypersonic weapons. The test in the United States was more complex, using a hypersonic direct-flow air-jet engine. The HAWC missile also has no warheads, instead it relies on its kinetic energy to destroy the target.
The test in the United States is the second successful launch of the HAWC rocket, and the first for the version from Lockheed Martin. Last September, the Air Force tested the Raytheon HAWC, equipped with a Northrop Grumman hypersonic direct-flow air-jet engine.
According to a press release from the Advanced Defense Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the tests met all major objectives, including integration and missile launch, safe separation from the launch vehicle, launching and flight. Officials then also provided some details about the flight, but without mentioning how fast the rocket flew or how far it had traveled. The press-release only stated that the rocket was moving at a speed of more than 5 Mach.