Paris Air Show

Raytheon and Northrop Team on Hypersonic Weapons

 - June 18, 2019, 8:43 AM

Northrop Grumman (Hall 2c, D322) will serve as the scramjet combustor provider for Raytheon’s planned air-breathing hypersonic weapon, which will be tested under a U.S. Air Force and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency contract to accelerate the development of this type of munition. 

The companies, which announced the partnership on Tuesday at the Paris Air Show, are working on this type of weapon for the USAF/DARPA Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) program. The aim is to develop a cruise missile in this category by applying the scramjet propulsion expertise that Northrop has developed to Raytheon’s tactical missile experience.

A scramjet engine uses high speed to forcibly compress incoming air before combustion to produce hypersonic flight speeds, enabling the weapon to travel as quickly and effectively as possible. Hypersonic weapons—ones that travel at least Mach 5—are of great interest to militaries, largely because they can travel over further distances in a quicker timeframe, increasing the stand-off range and the chance of mission success.

HAWC is designed to test technologies and is expected to result in flight tests on board the B-52 bomber later this year. Exact speeds of the planned weapon were not disclosed.

Meanwhile, the USAF conducted the first test flight of its hypersonic AGM-183A Air Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) on a B-52 last Wednesday at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Test flights of the Raytheon/Northrop system are planned soon, the companies said, following a series of ground tests that have already been carried out. Raytheon and Northrop Grumman noted that additive manufacturing is planned for the engine to help reduce the weight of the weapon.

Timescales are classified, they noted, and it is unclear if these will be carried internally or externally for air-launched operations.

The somewhat rapid development of this type of weapon is in response to advancements in this area emerging from China and Russia, so the U.S. is trying to play catch up. Counter-hypersonic technology development is also high on the agenda.