The US Air Force has awarded Raytheon Missiles and Defense a $985 million contract to develop and demonstrate Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile prototypes.
HACM will be an air-launched, scramjet-powered hypersonic weapon designed to hold high-value targets at risk in contested environments from standoff distances.
According to Raytheon, HACM is a first-of-its-kind weapon developed in conjunction with the Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment (SCIFiRE), a US and Australia project arrangement.
The Air Force awarded three 15-month SCIFiRE contracts in June 2021 to Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp., and Raytheon Technologies Corp. to complete preliminary designs of a hypersonic cruise missile.
The HACM program will now operationalize the Raytheon SCIFiRE prototype design for fighter aircraft integration and deliver two leave-behind assets with operational utility. Raytheon will work with Northrop Grumman on delivering the prototypes.
HACM is an air-breathing, scramjet powered munition. Scramjet engines use high vehicle speed to forcibly compress incoming air before combustion, which enables sustained flight at hypersonic speeds – Mach 5 or greater. By traveling at these speeds, hypersonic weapons, like HACM, are able to reach their targets more quickly than similar traditional missiles, allowing them to potentially evade defensive systems.
“HACM is a powerful example of developing and integrating combat capabilities alongside our partners from the beginning,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr. “HACM will provide our commanders with tactical flexibility to employ fighters to hold high-value, time-sensitive targets at risk while maintaining bombers for other strategic targets.”
“We have over a decade of cooperation with our Australian allies in the advancement of hypersonic technologies, and now we will bring that shared knowledge to bear to address urgent national defense requirements,” said Andrew Hunter, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics.
Through the SCIFiRE agreement, the US and Australia will continue collaborating on HACM design and development, including using Australian test infrastructure for the initial all-up-round flight tests.
Air Vice Marshal Robert Denney, AM, Head of Air Force Capability for the Royal Australian Air Force, said SCIFiRE is providing an opportunity to understand and influence the future of hypersonic weapons development and acquisition.
“SCIFiRE demonstrates our commitment with the US to strengthen capability outcomes, deepen our alliance and strengthen our cooperation as we meet emerging challenges and support regional endeavors.”
The Air Force plans to deliver a HACM capability with operational utility by fiscal year 2027.