US Air Force Hypersonic weapons roadmap

There will be a 50 percent increase in the Defense Department’s 2017 budget request for hypersonic research. The Air Force plans to test a hypersonic missile by the end of the decade. Patrick Tucker at Defense One provided an excellent summary of the US Air Force Hypersonic weapons projects.

The Pentagon, whose long record of hypersonic research stretches from the X-15 rocket plane to the Boeing X-51 scramjet and beyond, is today funding

  • the Lockheed Martin Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 program
  • the Raytheon Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC)
  • the Raytheon/Lockheed Tactical Boost Glide.

The Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency gave Raytheon $20 million and Lockheed $24 million for the latter.

Raytheon is spending tens of millions of its own dollars into hypersonic research. Thomas Bussing is Raytheon’s VP of Advanced Missile Systems. Bussing said that 3D printing and additive manufacturing have reduced the complexity of hypersonic devices and made Hypersonic missiles affordable.

David Walker, the U.S. Air Force deputy assistant secretary for science, described the US Air Force roadmap to hypersonic technology.

The military sees hypersonic airplanes as one answer to the rise of more capable programmable radar. “Our ability to operate in a stealthy mode is starting to lose its advantage because of the advanced radars,” Dick Urban of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, told the crowd at NDIA. “We think that speed is going to give us that extra advantage.” (Welby called advanced programmable radars “a challenge” but said that they did not necessarily make stealth obsolete.)

China is also working to develop hypersonic cruise missiles and has already conducted six tests of a hypersonic weapon, the WU-14. Russia and India are also planning to test a hypersonic missile called the BrahMos-II capable of reaching Mach 7, in 2017.

SOURCEs- US Air Force, Defense One