MOSCOW, October 2 – Novosti, Andrey Kots. The Pentagon seeks to create a weapon against which even the most modern air defense systems are powerless. Recently, the American military-industrial concern Raytheon received a contract worth almost a billion dollars to develop and test the HACM hypersonic air-launched cruise missile. It is expected that the promising ammunition will go into service with the Air Force as early as 2027. About the HACM project and other US hypersonic developments – in the Novosti material.
It is no secret that in the field of hypersonic weapons, the Americans turned out to be catching up. This is recognized with a creak both in the White House and in the Pentagon. The main geopolitical rivals of the US are far ahead. Russia has adopted the shipborne hypersonic Zircon, the aeroballistic Kinzhal, and the strategic Avangard. China – medium-range solid-propellant missile DF-17. Some of these systems have already passed the baptism of fire. In particular, in March, the Russian Air Force destroyed an underground ammunition depot in the Ivano-Frankivsk region of Ukraine with a Kinzhal.
In the US, several programs are being implemented at once. Of the most promising projects – HACM (Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile). This is an air-launched hypersonic cruise missile with a ramjet engine capable of accelerating up to six thousand kilometers per hour in the upper atmosphere. The range is unknown, but the Americans emphasize that they will surpass the most long-range air defense systems of Russia and China in this indicator.
“We consider tactical aircraft, mainly fighters, as the main carriers of HACM,” General Charles Brown, Chief of Staff of the US Air Force, told reporters. “The new weapon will allow our commanders to plan combat operations much more flexibly. near the rear of the enemy, while specialized bombers will solve strategic tasks.
© : U.S. Air Force / Airman 1st Class Joshua D. King F-35A Lightning II
© : U.S. Air Force / Airman 1st Class Joshua D. King
American fighter F-35A Lightning II
Brown did not specify which aircraft in question. Apparently, these are fifth-generation F-35 and F-22 fighters. The Pentagon is convinced that they are the least vulnerable to the air defense of a potential enemy. However, their stealth has never been tested in real combat by modern anti-aircraft missile systems.
The HACM project is a tasty morsel for the American defense industry. Last June, the Pentagon awarded three 15-month contracts to develop preliminary hypersonic cruise missile concepts with Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Rautheon. The latter was chosen for the construction of prototypes. US allies are also participating in the program. In particular, Australia promised to provide infrastructure for testing.
HACM is one of two leading hypersonic aviation programs that should culminate in the creation of combat models. There is also an ARRW aeroballistic missile with a glider from Lockheed Martin. It is assumed that this product will be able to reach speeds of over Mach 20 and hit 900 kilometers. The missile is designed to destroy land targets, ships and targets that quickly change position. The main carriers of the ARRW are the B-1B strategic bombers.
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It was planned to take promising missiles into service as early as 2022. However, test failures pushed the deadlines to the right. In 2021, the US Air Force conducted three tests of a rocket booster on a prototype of a promising rocket. All failed. During the first flight tests in April, the product did not separate from the aircraft. In July, the rocket engine did not turn on. In December, ARRW again failed to launch.
The tests ended in success only in May 2022. Additional tests are coming, which means that the missile will not go into service in the near future. Nevertheless, the US Air Force requested funding for the first 12 ARRW missiles. According to Pentagon officials, production will be fast, as many elements are created using 3D printing technology.
Option for the army
There are plans for hypersonic and other branches of the US Armed Forces. So, for the ground forces, a long-range hypersonic missile system LRHW (Long Range Hypersonic Weapon) is being created. There will be several main products. The main thing is the AUR (All-Up-Round) missile in the transport and launch container, carrying the C-HGB (Common Hypersonic Glide Body) warhead. A mobile launcher and a mobile battery command post are also being developed.
C-HGB belongs to the class of hypersonic gliders. The launch vehicle accelerates it to operating speed, after which an independent gliding flight begins. According to the Pentagon, the C-HGB block will be able to achieve at least five Machs. More exact values are not called. The range, according to Breaking Defense, citing a representative of the US Army, will exceed 2775 kilometers.
This makes it possible to attribute the LRHW complex to the class of medium-range missiles banned until recently by the INF Treaty. They want to deploy the first battery in combat units as early as 2023. In the future, Lockheed Martin specialists intend to develop an option for launching from ships and submarines. It is expected to enter service in 2025.
The main competitor of the ship-based LRHW in the US Navy is the Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) program, hypersonic instantaneous global strike missiles. As stated in the command of the US Navy, this product will allow the military to hit any target on the planet in less than an hour after receiving the appropriate order.
New missiles are going to be installed on Virginia-class nuclear submarines. The Pentagon hopes to receive the first serial samples by 2024, the nuclear submarines will be converted for them by 2028. Up to 65 CPS will be placed on each Block V series submarine. In addition, these missiles are considered as the main ones for the latest Zumwalt-class stealth destroyers.
However, here, too, American gunsmiths faced a number of problems. In June, the US Navy failed tests – the product could not be launched from the carrier due to an engine failure. This is the second failure – the first was in October 2021, when a prototype rocket fell into the sea for unknown reasons shortly after launch.