Why DARPA’s new hypersonic cruise missile and advanced scramjet engine could pack such a devastating punch

Oct. 12, 2021
A hypersonic cruise missile offers the hitting power of a cruise missile, with less time for detection, making it harder to deploy air defenses.

WASHINGTON – In September the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) demonstrated a hypersonic missile. Released from a plane, the missile briefly fell, and then its powerful engine hurled it forwards, surpassing Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound. Popular Science reports. Continue reading original article

The Military & Aerospace Electronics take:

12 Oct. 2021 -- The missile, called the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC), is a type of middle child between slower cruise missiles and much faster ballistic missiles.

The HAWC is propelled by a scramjet, or supersonic combustion ramjet, an engine that compresses incoming air, mixes with its hydrocarbon fuel, and then ignites that fast-moving airflow mixture. A hypersonic missile like the HAWC could hit a target without any warhead on board, as the sheer calculus of force times mass is enough to do the same damage as a slower explosive-filled warhead.

Understanding the HAWC specifically, and hypersonic weapons more generally, means understanding the differences and different uses of existing cruise missiles, the ballistic missile, and new hypersonic weapons.

Related: The emerging world of hypersonic weapons technology

Related: Meeting SWaP needs for electronics and sensors for hypersonic flight

Related: Russian navy set to test Zircon hypersonic anti-ship missile next year to attack targets at Mach-8 speeds

John Keller, chief editor
Military & Aerospace Electronics

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