A hypersonic cruise missile co-developed by Raytheon Technologies has passed its second consecutive flight test – a milestone in the US Department of Defense’s plan to deploy weapons that travel faster than five times the speed of sound.
The test, conducted in July 2022, featured a hypersonic air-breathing weapon concept, with minor refinements informed by its previous successful test in September 2021. Its performance in the most recent test – it fell from an airplane and accelerated beyond Mach 5 – met company data model predictions.
“Advancing our nation’s hypersonic capabilities is a critical national imperative, and this was an important step forward,” said Wes Kremer, president of Raytheon Missiles & Defense, a Raytheon Technologies business. “Having consecutive successful flight tests gives us even greater confidence in the technical maturity of our HAWC operational prototype.”
The HAWC program is a joint effort of the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the US Air Force.
A digital thread
The HAWC missile takes oxygen around it to propel itself. Northrop Grumman designed their scramjet combustor and part of the flow path. The system represents one way Raytheon Technologies is partnering with the entire industry to accelerate hypersonic advances, by combining proven technology with cutting-edge developments in thermal management, propulsion and sensing.
Hypersonic weapons require new design solutions because their speed and maneuverability create harsh operating environments. To quickly develop and validate the system, the company used digital engineering, in particular modeling and simulation, as well as ground tests.
Digital engineering “helps us find new materials, manufacturing processes and aerodynamic shapes that can withstand extreme conditions while still delivering the required performance,” Kremer said. “It is an essential contribution to the success of our flight tests.”
From data to predictive analytics
The latest test follows the Raytheon Technologies/Northrop Grumman team’s first-ever flight test of a HAWC missile in 2021. But countless tests have taken place in the digital world, gleaning valuable data used to help predict real-world performance.
These numerical models, based on actual flight data, are used to accurately predict and increase performance as the weapon concept matures.
The power of digital engineering
As model fidelity improves across the industry, confidence in the ability to correlate the two also increases.
“It’s difficult to recreate the most advanced threat scenarios in the real world, and that’s especially true in hypersonics,” Kremer said. “But we have the power to model a hypersonic flight regime.”
Digital environments allow engineers to learn faster and iterate more affordably, compared to building and stealing physical hardware.
“Advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data allow us to develop large-scale capabilities in ways that weren’t possible before,” Kremer said. “That’s the power of digital engineering.”
Coupled with a creative partnership, digital engineering helps Raytheon Technologies move advanced hypersonic capabilities from labs to test environments and into the hands of warfighters at full speed.
The latest tests put the companies on track to deliver a working prototype system to the US Department of Defense.