On September 22, the US Air Force announced that Raytheon Technologies, a US-based defense giant, had won a $ 1 billion contract to continue development of the Hypersonic Attack (HACM) cruise missile.
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Raytheon Technologies, which overtook Lockheed Martin and Boeing to secure the contract, is now well positioned to become the USAF’s premier hypersonic cruise missile supplier.
The HACM is a scramjet-powered hypersonic weapon that is launched from the air and intended to be used at stall distances in contested circumstances to put places of value at risk.
With the latest announcement, the Hypersonic Attack cruise missile, or HACM, is starting to advance from the prototype stage to an operational weapon that could be deployed in conflict.
#BREAK: @usairforce select #RaytheonDefense And @northropgrumman to develop a first of its kind #isonic compressed air missile. More information: https://t.co/9DdzUwmxj8 #hypersonic weapons #HACM #USAF pic.twitter.com/y9xGoce5WQ
– Raytheon missiles and defense (@RaytheonDefense) September 23, 2022
The program includes “the design, development and initial delivery of the HACM weapon system through performing model-based critical design review, qualification, integration, production and testing,” the press release states.
The service wants to have a HACM weapon capable of fighting 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 down because they can maneuver while in flight.
“HACM is a powerful example of developing and integrating combat capabilities together with our partners from the start,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr. “HACM will provide our commanders with tactical flexibility. to employ fighters to keep high-value and time-sensitive targets at risk while retaining bombers for other strategic targets, “he added.
The missile is expected to be deployed to F-15 fighters in 2027, according to the deputy administrator. Ron Boxall, director for force structure, resources and joint staff evaluation, which he tested before Congress in March 2022.
Reportedly, the HACM can also be deployed on fighter jets and bombers. Additionally, a B-52 can carry 20 or more HACMs, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service.
Mary Petryszyn, president of Northrop Grumman Defense Systems, said the Hypersonic Attack cruise missile introduces a new class of critical strategic weapons for the US military. She further stated that their scramjet propulsion technology is ushering in a new era of faster, stronger and more competent weapons.
The Air Force also expressed great interest in the HACM program and filed a $ 316.8 million budget request for fiscal year 2023, an increase of more than $ 257 million from last year.
The rapid development of hypersonic weapons by China and Russia has prompted the US military to accelerate the development of such weapons.
Moscow has already deployed the Tsirkon hypersonic anti-ship and ground attack missile together with the Avangard hypersonic gliding vehicle. Sergei Shoigu, the Russian defense minister, had previously said that hypersonic weapons would be the pillar of his future non-nuclear deterrence capability.
The United States is also currently working on several types of hypersonic weapons. This includes scramjet-powered cruise missiles and rocket-fired gliding vehicles before gliding over a grounded target.
The service tests the Lockheed Martin-built fast-response air-launched GM-183A (ARRW) weapon, a hypersonic weapon launched into the atmosphere before gliding towards 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.
Collaboration with Australia
The Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile (HACM) was developed in collaboration with the Australian government.
In 2020, the United States Air Force and Australia signed a multi-year bilateral project agreement known as the Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment to produce prototype air-breathing hypersonic cruise missiles.
The service 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 wish to continue their cooperation in the future.
The Air Force said 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 360-degree flight tests.
The shortage of testing facilities has significantly hampered the development of hypersonic weapons in the United States. Lawmakers and Department of Defense officials are exploring options for expanding testing facilities to address the lack of testing facilities.