According to reports, the Lockheed Martin design test took place mid-March. However, it was not made public in order to prevent Russia from escalating their tensions.
According to a CNN defense official, the US tested a hypersonic missile that Lockheed Martin designed for its Hypersonic Airbreathing Weapon Concept (HAWC). According to Biden’s administration, the trials were kept secret in order not to further antagonize Russia.
CNN sources claim that the scramjet missile launched from an B-52 bomber near the coast. It traveled more than 300 miles at 600kmph (480km) and reached an altitude 65,000 feet (62,000 m). Although it is not known the speed of this projectile, the source said that it must have reached Mach 5, which would be considered the lowest range hypersonic weapon.
The second test was conducted under the HAWC program. This is jointly managed by the US Air Force, the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and DARPA. DARPA reported last September that it had test-fired a prototype scramjet missile produced by Raytheon Technologies in collaboration with Northrop Grumman. However, no details were provided.
The booster stage speeds up the projectile to the point that the main scramjet engines of both variants can start to kick in. According to CNN, the design of the missile is distinct from Russia’s Kinzhal hypersonic ballistic weapon, which was launched airily by the Russians.
According to Russian military sources, the Russian weapon had been used March 18th to attack a Western Ukrainian fortified ammunition depot. The US downplayed the significance of the deployment, with President Joe Biden stating that it “doesn’t make…much of a difference except it’s nearly impossible to intercept”. It is important to reach high speed range using weapons to eliminate enemy anti-missile defenses, and deliver strikes quickly or without notice.
Russia also has the hypersonic cruise missile Tsirkon, which is a variant of Kinzhal. This anti-ship weapon can be fired from both ships and submarines. Moscow views it as an effective threat to highly valuable naval targets, such as aircraft carrier strikes groups.
CNN reported that Washington decided to not publicize Lockheed Martin’s prototype test in order to keep tensions from rising between Washington, Washington, and Moscow. The US military cancelled routine ICBM testing during Ukraine’s crisis, citing the exact same reason.
In terms of hypersonic weapon development, the US seems to be somewhat behind China and Russia. Last year saw a number of setbacks for the Air-launched Rapid-Response Weapon (ARRW), a parallel weapon to be developed by the US Air Force. The third failed test was reported in December.
This weapon design features a solid propellant booster that deploys a wedge-shaped glide car to achieve the speed and altitude necessary for long-range strikes. Russia and China both claim they have hypersonic gliders that can be deployed using ballistic missiles.
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