U.S. successfully tests hypersonic booster motor in Utah

By Mike Stone

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Pentagon successfully tested a booster rocket motor on Thursday designed to power a launch vehicle carrying a hypersonic weapon aloft, the Navy said.

The United States and its global rivals have intensified their drive to build hypersonic weapons – the next generation of arms that rob adversaries of reaction time and traditional defeat mechanisms. Defense contractors hope to capitalize as they make the weapons and develop new detection and defeat mechanisms.

This week, the top U.S. military officer confirmed a Chinese hypersonic weapons test that military experts say appears to show Beijing’s pursuit of an Earth-orbiting system designed to evade American missile defenses.

“We are on schedule for the upcoming flight test of the full common hypersonic missile,” said Vice Admiral Johnny Wolfe Jr, Director, Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs, lead designer on the program. That flight test, of the combined boost rocket and hypersonic weapon, is slated to happen before Autumn 2022.

Last week in Kodiak, Alaska, the U.S. failed a hypersonic weapon test when the booster failed.

U.S. military services will use the common hypersonic missile as a base to develop individual weapon systems and launchers tailored for launch from sea or land.

The common hypersonic missile will consist of the first stage solid rocket motor as part of a new missile booster combined with the Common Hypersonic Glide Body (CHGB).

This static fire test marked the first time the first stage solid rocket motor included a thrust vector control system, the Navy said. Thrust vector control systems allow the rocket motors to be maneuverable in flight.

The U.S. Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs conducted two prior tests of the solid rocket motor used in the development of the Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) offensive hypersonic strike capability and the Army’s Long Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW).

Arms makers Lockheed Martin Corp, Northrop Grumman Corp and Raytheon Technologies Corp all touted their hypersonic weapons programs at the top of their quarterly earnings calls this week as world focus shifted to the new arms race for an emerging class of weapon.

(Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington; Editing by David Gregorio and Marguerita Choy)

U.S. successfully flight tests Raytheon hypersonic weapon – Pentagon

By Mike Stone

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has tested an air-breathing hypersonic weapon capable of speeds faster than five times the speed of sound, marking the first successful test of the class of weapon since 2013, the Pentagon said on Monday.

The test took place as the United States and its global rivals quicken their pace to build hypersonic weapons – the next generation of arms that rob adversaries of reaction time and traditional defeat mechanisms.

In July, Russia said it had successfully tested a Tsirkon (Zircon) hypersonic cruise missile, a weapon President Vladimir Putin has touted as part of a new generation of missile systems without equal in the world.

The free flight test of the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) occurred last week, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, said in a statement.

Hypersonic weapons travel in the upper atmosphere at speeds of more than five times the speed of sound, or about 6,200 kilometers (3,853 miles) per hour.

“The missile, built by Raytheon Technologies, was released from an aircraft seconds before its Northrop Grumman scramjet (supersonic combustion ramjet) engine kicked on,” DARPA said.

“The DoD (Department of Defense) has identified hypersonic weapons and counter-hypersonic capabilities as the highest technical priorities for our nation’s security,” said Wes Kremer, president of Raytheon’s Missiles & Defense business unit.

“The United States, and our allies, must have the ability to deter the use of these weapons and the capabilities to defeat them,” he said.

In 2019, Raytheon teamed up with Northrop Grumman to develop and produce engines for hypersonic weapons. Northrop’s scramjet engine technology uses the vehicle’s high speed to forcibly compress incoming air before combustion to enable sustained flight at hypersonic speeds.

“The HAWC vehicle operates best in oxygen-rich atmosphere, where speed and maneuverability make it difficult to detect in a timely way. It could strike targets much more quickly than subsonic missiles and has significant kinetic energy even without high explosives,” DARPA said in the release.

(Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington; Editing by Dan Grebler and Mark Potter)