The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the U.S. Air Force have completed the fourth and final flight test for the Hypersonic Airbreathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) program.

The flight test of the Aerojet Rocketdyne [AJRD] scramjet engine-equipped Lockheed Martin [LMT] missile, launched from a B-52, “capped a program that accomplished all of its initial objectives,” DARPA said on Jan. 30.

John Clark, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin Skunk Works in Palmdale, Calif., said in a statement that “affordability and reliability are essential as we work to develop operational hypersonic solutions.”

DARPA and the Air Force conducted the first HAWC flight test in September 2021 with the Raytheon Technologies [RTX]/Northrop Grumman [NOC] version of the missile (Defense Daily, Sept. 27, 2021). Last April, DARPA announced a first flight test of the Lockheed Martin/Aerojet HAWC missile and a second flight test of the Raytheon/Northrop HAWC missile last July.

Clark said that both of the Lockheed Martin/Aerojet flight tests “matched performance models and predictions to aid affordable, rapid development of future hypersonic weapons.”

In this month’s test, “the Lockheed Martin missile again flew at speeds greater than Mach 5, higher than 60,000 feet, and farther than 300 nautical miles,” DARPA said. “This latest flight demonstrated improved capabilities and performance. The nation’s hypersonic portfolio now has two feasible hypersonic airbreathing missile designs (Lockheed Martin and Raytheon) to improve and mature [under the Air Force Research Laboratory] in the future.”

Andrew “Tippy” Knoedler, DARPAs HAWC program manager, said in a DARPA statement that personnel on the program have faced a “share of difficulties.”

“Through a pandemic, a strained supply chain, and atmospheric rivers, our industry partners forged ahead, mitigating the risks where they could and accepting others,” he said. “They delivered on their promises, proving the feasibility of the concept.”

Knoedler said that the HAWC program “created a generation of new hypersonic engineers and scientists.”

While Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said last year that air-breathing hypersonic missile designs, using scramjet engines, had shown more promise for the U.S. than hypersonic boost glide, the latter appeared to get a boost from the first successful all-up-round test of a prototype Lockheed Martin AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) last month (Defense Daily, Dec. 12, 2022).