DARPA and the U.S. Air Force have completed captive carry tests of two variants of the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) and are ready to proceed to first free-flight testing within the calendar year, DARPA said on Sept. 1.

HAWC, which involves Lockheed Martin [LMT] and Raytheon [RTX], seeks to develop and demonstrate critical technologies to enable an effective and affordable air-launched hypersonic cruise missile.

The companies “have each tested advanced air vehicle configurations that promise to achieve and sustain efficient hypersonic flight,” per DARPA. “Their upcoming flight tests will focus on hydrocarbon scramjet-powered propulsion and thermal management techniques to enable prolonged hypersonic cruise, in addition to affordable system designs and manufacturing approaches.”

The Air Force plans to field hypersonic platforms in the next decade, and new Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown, the former Pacific Air Forces Commander, has told Congress that he wants to accelerate such efforts (Defense Daily, May 7).

Speaking before the Senate Armed Service Committee (SASC) during his May confirmation hearing, Brown told lawmakers that he had daily access to intel reports detailing China’s hypersonic advancements.

“Completing the captive carry series of tests demonstrates both HAWC designs are ready for free flight,” Andrew “Tippy” Knoedler,  HAWC program manager in DARPA’s tactical technology office, said in a Sept. 1 statement. “These tests provide us a large measure of confidence – already well informed by years of simulation and wind tunnel work – that gives us faith the unique design path we embarked on will provide unmatched capability to U.S. forces.”

Last spring, the Air Force released a solicitation for its next hypersonic platform, a scramjet cruise missile (Defense Daily, April 29). In 2018, the service contracted Lockheed Martin [LMT] as the lead for the AGM-183 Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), which would be a boost-glide standoff weapon. In February, it canceled the concurrent Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW) program to focus entirely on ARRW’s progress (Defense Daily, Feb. 10).