US trials devastating Mach 5 hypersonic weapon

Russia tests hypersonic cruise missile in May 2022

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Joe Biden’s US has successfully tested a groundbreaking hypersonic weapon at speeds exceeding Mach 5, at altitudes above 60,000 feet, sending a powerful message to Russia’s Vladimir Putin about the US’s emerging capability. And developers are now confident such weapon systems can be produced rapidly to meet “the urgent national need”.

A team consisting of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Air Force Research Lab (AFRL), Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) and Aerojet Rocketdyne (NYSE: AJRD) team accomplished their “primary objectives” during its second Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) flight test.

Launching from a B-52 bomber, the HAWC system’s first stage boosted it to the “targeted engine ignition envelope” or point at which the Aerojet Rocketdyne scramjet engine fired, and accelerated the system to more than five times the speed of sound (Mach 5), or 3836 mph.

The system performed as predicted, travelling more than 300 nautical miles and reaching altitudes above 60,000 feet (more than 11 miles).

John Clark, vice president and general manager Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, said: “Affordability and reliability are essential as we work to develop operational hypersonic solutions.

“Both of our HAWC flight tests launched from an operational aircraft and matched performance models and predictions to aid affordable, rapid development of future hypersonic weapons.”

The Lockheed Martin Skunk Works and Aerojet Rocketdyne teams have worked closely to develop low-cost advanced manufacturing technologies, prioritising extreme durability to reduce costs.

As a result of integrating digital technologies throughout the design, test, and manufacturing process, the team demonstrated that hypersonic systems can be produced affordably at the rates required to meet “the urgent national need”, Lockheed Martin said.

Lockheed Martin played a significant role in the research, development and demonstration of hypersonic technologies for close to 60 years.

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The corporation has made significant investments in the development of critical hypersonic technologies Washington believes are required to enable operational systems which can help the US and its allies counter rapidly emerging threats.

Earlier this month Putin sent a frigate armed with the country’s latest Zircon hypersonic missile on a trans-ocean cruise in a show of force as tensions with the West escalate over the war in Ukraine.

Russia claims the Zircon missile can evade any Western air defences by flying at an astounding 7,000 miles per hour, or Mach 9.

Speaking via video link during Wednesday’s sendoff ceremony, Putin again praised Zircon as a “unique weapon” without an “equivalent for it in any country in the world.”

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The Pentagon responded by saying it was monitoring the ship, and did not think it presented a threat that could not be countered.

Pentagon spokesman Army Colonel Roger Cabiness said: “We are aware of the reports regarding the Russian launch of a frigate, the Admiral Grorshkov.

“We will continue to routinely monitor its activities as we maintain awareness of our operating environment.

“While we do not comment on specific capabilities or speculate on hypotheticals, the Department of Defense remains confident in our ability to deter our adversaries and defend United States national security interests at any time, in any place.”

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