The head of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) said two of the agency’s air-launched hypersonic weapons are on track to launch in initial flight tests by the end of 2019.

The joint DARPA and Air Force programs, Tactical Boost Glide (TBG) and Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) are both focused on tactical, theater-level operations. These are flight demonstration programs.

Image: Raytheon

“We’re on track for both, to have flights for ‘19, before the calendar year ends,” DARPA Director Steven Walker told reporters Wednesday at a Defense Writers Group event.

While Walker said he is “hopeful we can fly both of these by the end of ‘19,” he admitted they “may slip into the early ’20 timeframe” due to issues that may crop up in qualifying and integrating hardware.

In March, DARPA awarded Raytheon [RTN] a $63 million contract to further develop the TBG weapon. TBG involves a rocket lifting a payload into the atmosphere at high speeds, then releasing a glide vehicle to reach speeds upward of Mach 5 upon descent (Defense Daily, March 6).

Previously, in October 2016 DARPA awarded Raytheon a $175 million contract for a research project under the HAWC program. This was weeks after awarding Lockheed Martin [LMT] a similar contract worth $171 million (Defense Daily, Nov. 4, 2016).

Walker said while TBG is a glide vehicle, the HAWC takes advantage of previous scramjet technology to test a self-powered hypersonic weapon.

Walker said, “these will be important tests for DARPA and the Air Force.”

He added the agency is working with the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) and the Air Force to put prototyping activities together so the Air Force could accept these concepts if they are successful in the flight tests.

The Air Force may take the TBG concept, fly it several more times through the prototyping level, and then build some number for the Air Force, Walker said.

He said DARPA is working with the other services on hypersonic weapons as well. DARPA has ongoing work with the Army on a 50-50 cost-sharing program to take advantage of the boost glide weapon and give them a TBG-class weapon.

DARPA also has a study underway with the Navy, looking into whether HAWC would be a useful option.

Walker underscored hypersonic weapons is “one of the areas I pay a lot of attention to and my boss [Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering] Mike Griffin pays a lot of attention to it.”