According to the Pentagon, the US recently executed a successful “free flight” test of a hypersonic missile, but the test was kept covert in order to avoid escalation with Russia over Ukraine.
The test was called the “second successful flight in DARPA’s HAWC [Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept] programme” by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
In a DARPA announcement, Andrew “Tippy” Knoedler, HAWC programme manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, said, “This Lockheed Martin HAWC flight test successfully demonstrated a second design that will allow our warfighters to competitively select the correct capabilities to dominate the battlefield.”
The HAWC programme is a collaboration between DARPA and the Air Force.
“These accomplishments raise the technological maturity required to transfer HAWC to a service programme of record.”
Lockheed’s free light test was originally scheduled for late 2020, but was postponed owing to technical difficulties.
In September 2021, Raytheon’s competing version of the HAWC system was successfully tested.
The missile was launched from a “carrier aircraft,” boosted by a scramjet engine, and then “immediately accelerated to and maintained cruise faster than Mach 5 (five times the speed of sound) for an extended length of time,” according to DARPA.
The vehicle flew for more than 300 nautical miles and reached altitudes of more than 65,000 feet.”
The DARPA revelation came only hours after CNN reported on the successful test, claiming that it occurred in mid-March but that the Biden administration kept quiet about it to prevent sending an escalatory signal to Russia.