The defense departments of Australia and the US announced today they are starting a bilateral effort to advance the development of air-breathing hypersonic technologies.
Dubbed the Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment (SCIFiRE), the effort is an allied prototyping initiative (API) under the Directorate for Advanced Capabilities within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering.
SCIFiRE will aim to cooperatively advance air-breathing hypersonic technologies into full-size prototypes that are affordable and provide a flexible, long range capability, culminating in flight demonstrations in operationally relevant conditions. According to scarce details available, the program will seek to develop hypersonic weapons that would be lighter and smaller than regular air-launched cruise missiles and be carried carried by aircraft currently flown by the two countries.
The effort will also pursue potential co-production opportunities between the two countries, and leverages US and Australian collaborative hypersonic activities over the last 15 years, namely the Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation (HIFiRE) program.
As noted by the Pentagon, SCIFiRE continues collaborative research efforts involving the US Air Force, US Navy, the Royal Australian Air Force Headquarters, and the Australian Defence Science and Technology Group.
SCIFiRE is the second effort announced under the Allied Prototyping Initiative, which was launched in 2019 by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering through its Advanced Capabilities directorate. API leverages new and existing frameworks for international cooperation in research and development, so that the US and its closest allies can co-develop high impact operational prototypes and capitalize on the use of the industrial base within both countries.
“This initiative will be essential to the future of hypersonic research and development, ensuring the US and our allies lead the world in the advancement of this transformational warfighting capability,” said Michael Kratsios, Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering.
“The SCIFiRE initiative is another opportunity to advance the capabilities in our Air Combat Capability Program to support joint force effects to advance Australia’s security and prosperity,” Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld AO, DSC, Chief of Air Force said.
The US is embarking on the SCIFiRE project after entering into an agreement with Norway earlier this year for cooperation on solid fuel ramjet technologies under the Tactical High-speed Offensive Ramjet for Extended Range (THOR-ER) project.