Amid growing media speculation over details of the Pentagon's hypersonic weapons program pursued in conjunction with Lockheed Martin and DARPA, a shocking headline appeared Tuesday in the respected aviation journal Aviation Week, namely that a US B-52 bomber lost an experimental hypersonic missile in mid-air over California.
The report, also picked up in The New York Post and others described that, “A scramjet-powered missile developed under the joint DARPA/U.S. Air Force Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) program was destroyed in a recent test accident, Aviation Week has learned.”
The aviation monitoring site reports further details: “The missile is believed to have inadvertently separated from a B-52 carrier aircraft during a captive-carry flight test, according to sources familiar with the evaluation,” and added, “The cause of the mishap, which is thought to have involved an aircraft from the 419th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards AFB, California, is under investigation.”
The weapon reportedly separated from the Boeing B-52 carrier aircraft and was soon after destroyed, meaning it either detonated in the air or when it struck the ground below.
The Air Force refused to comment for the report while DARPA didn't deny the accident, only saying “Details of those flight demonstrations are classified,” in an apparent tacit admission that experimental tests are indeed taking place.
The NY Post explains: "Scramjets allow missiles to reach hypersonic speeds that greatly exceed the speed of sound, often reaching Mach 5 and above."
And Forbes also summarizes of the experimental Air Force technology:
HAWC is one of several super-fast missiles that the Air Force is developing in order to help its ancient B-52 bombers and other planes poke holes in Chinese and Russian defenses.
HAWC is a scramjet, meaning it has an engine and breathes air like an airplane does. Other hypersonic weapons, such as the Air-Launched Rapid-Response Weapon, boost to hypersonic speed atop a rocket then glides at five times the speed of sound.
The Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) program is said to be part of a broader multi-billion dollar program under the Department of Defense, and recently approved by Congress.
Washington political and defense leaders have over the past two years signaled a rapidly growing hypersonics program especially after Russian President Vladimir Putin began boasting of the great strides the Kremlin has made, even recently said to be testing hypersonics, which last year in August also resulted in a major accident on a test launch pad which released dangerous levels of nuclear radiation in the surrounding area.
Putin, for example, has lately boasted that Russia's futuristic hypersonic arsenal will be incapable of being defended against. Beijing is also said to be pursuing its own program as well, as American generals also purse ways to counter and defend against such a scenario.