On September 22, the US Air Force announced that Raytheon Technologies, a US-based defense giant, had been awarded a $1 billion contract to continue development of the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile (HACM).
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Raytheon Technologies, which surpassed Lockheed Martin and Boeing to win the contract, is now well positioned to become the leading supplier of hypersonic cruise missiles to the USAF.
The HACM is a scramjet-powered hypersonic weapon launched through the air intended to be used at ranged ranges in contested conditions to endanger valuable sites.
With the latest announcement, the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile, or HACM, begins to evolve from the prototype stage into an operational weapon that can be deployed in conflict situations.
#BREAK: @US Air Force select #RaytheonDefence and @northropgrumman developing a first of its kind #hypersonic air-breathing rocket. More information: https://t.co/9DdzUwmxj8 #hypersonicweapons #HACM #USAF pic.twitter.com/y9xGoce5WQRead:Tech stocks worst two-week stretch since the start of pandemic
— Raytheon missiles and defense (@RaytheonDefense) September 23, 2022
The program includes “design, development and initial delivery of the HACM weapon system through model-based critical design assessment, qualification, integration, manufacturing and testing,” the press release said.
The service aims to have a combat-capable HACM weapon by March 2027. Hypersonic weapons are critical to the US military. They can travel at speeds several times that of sound and are difficult for opponents to track and shoot because they can maneuver in flight.
“HACM is a powerful example of developing and integrating combat capabilities with our partners from the beginning,” said Air Force Chief of Staff General CQ Brown, Jr. , time-sensitive targets at risk, while bombers are kept for other strategic targets,” he added.
The missile is expected to be deployed on F-15 fighter jets in 2027, according to Vice Admiral Ron Boxall, director for armed forces structure, resources and assessment of the Joint Staff, who testified before Congress in March 2022.
The HACM can also reportedly be deployed on fighter and bomber aircraft. Also, a B-52 can carry 20 or more HACMs, according to a Congressional Research Service report.Read:NTSB Wants All Cars to Come With Tech to Prevent Drunk-Driving
Mary Petryszyn, president of Northrop Grumman Defense Systems, said the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile introduces a new class of critical strategic weapons to the US military. He went on to say that their scramjet propulsion technology is ushering in a new era of faster, more survivable and competent weapons.
The Air Force has also shown strong interest in the HACM program, submitting a $316.8 million budget request for fiscal 2023, an increase of more than $257 million from last year.
The rapid development of hypersonic weapons by China and Russia prompted the US military to accelerate the development of such weapons.
Moscow has already deployed the Tsirkon hypersonic anti-ship and land attack missile along with the Avangard hypersonic glider. Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s defense minister, previously stated that hypersonic weapons would be the mainstay of its future non-nuclear deterrent capability.
The US is also currently working on various types of hypersonic weapons. This includes cruise missiles powered by scramjet engines and gliders launched by missiles before sliding toward a ground target.Read:Manufacturing Execution Systems Market Size to Reach USD
The agency is testing the Lockheed Martin-built GM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), a hypersonic weapon that is launched into the atmosphere before sliding toward its target.
The United States Air Force, Army and Navy are all working on at least five hypersonic weapons projects. In addition, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is working on four other projects.
Cooperation with Australia
The hypersonic attack cruise missile (HACM) is being developed in conjunction with the Australian government.
In 2020, the United States and Australian Air Forces signed a multi-year bilateral project agreement known as the Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment to produce prototypes of hypersonic cruise missiles.
The agency then awarded Raytheon, Boeing and Lockheed Martin 15-month SCIFiRE contracts in June 2021 to complete conceptual designs for a hypersonic cruise missile. Meanwhile, the two countries want to continue their cooperation in the future.
The Air Force stated in a press release that the United States and Australia would continue to collaborate on the design and development of HACM under the SCIFiRE agreement.
As part of the ongoing collaboration, HACM will use the Australian test infrastructure for its first all-round flight testing.
A shortage of testing facilities has significantly hampered the development of hypersonic weapons in the United States. Lawmakers and DoD officials are exploring options to expand testing facilities to address the lack of testing facilities.