EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Florida – US Air Force missile experts are asking a team from Raytheon Technologies Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp. to develop one of the first hypersonic cruise missiles in US inventory.
Armaments Directorate officials at the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., on Thursday announced a $985.3 million contract order to the Raytheon Missiles & Defense segment in Tucson, Ariz. to complete the To design and develop Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile (HCM).
Initially carried by jet fighter-bombers such as the Boeing F-15EX and F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft, this air-launched hypersonic cruise missile is a scramjet-powered hypersonic weapon designed to threaten high-value targets in contested environments from distances, Air Force officials.
Hypersonic munitions fly through the air at speeds of at least Mach 5, which is 3,836 miles per hour. Some hypersonic munitions in development are said to fly much faster. Raytheon and the Northrop Grumman Defense Systems segment of McLean, Virginia, will deliver operational HACM hypersonic cruise missiles to the Air Force.
Related: The electronics design challenges of hypersonic flight
The hypersonic operating environment is associated with severe shock, vibration, heat and thermal shock loads, so the guidance and navigation technologies must be specially hardened to withstand such severe operating conditions.
The order requires Raytheon and Northrop Grumman to perform model-based critical design review, qualification, integration, manufacture and testing in the development and deployment of the HACM hypersonic cruise missile.
The Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile will feature scramjet engines that, at high vehicle speeds, will forcibly compress incoming air before combustion, allowing for sustained hypersonic flight.
By traveling at these speeds, hypersonic weapons like HACM can reach their targets faster than similar conventional missiles and potentially evade air defenses.
Related: Military researchers are urging industry to develop robust materials for hypersonic radomes and infrared windows
Raytheon and Northrop Grumman have been working together since 2019 to design, manufacture and integrate Northrop Grumman’s scramjet engines into Raytheon’s hypersonic air-breathing weapons.
In 2020, the US Air Force joined Australia in a multi-year project called the Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment (SCIFiRE) to develop prototype air-breathing hypersonic cruise missiles.
The Air Force awarded Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp. three 15-month SCIFIRE contracts in June 2021. and Raytheon to complete preliminary designs of a hypersonic cruise missile.
Related: How to build sensors with sufficiently robust sensor protection to withstand the extreme heat of hypersonic flight
The HACM program will bring Raytheon’s SCIFiRE prototype design for fighter aircraft integration into production and deliver two legacy assets with operational benefits.
Through SCIFiRE, the US and Australia will continue to collaborate on HACM design and development, including using Australian test sites for the first full-scale flight tests. The Air Force plans to have an operationally useful HACM capability by 2027.
As part of this contract, Raytheon will perform the work in Tucson, Arizona and will be completed by March 2027. For more information, contact Raytheon Missiles & Defense online at www.raytheonmissilesanddefense.com, Northrop Grumman Defense Systems at www.northropgrumman.com, or the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at www.aflcmc.af.mil.