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Northrop Grumman and Raytheon have signed a teaming agreement to develop, produce and integrate Northrop Grumman’s scramjet combustors to power Raytheon’s air-breathing hypersonic weapons at the Paris Air Show. Scramjet engines use high vehicle speed to forcibly compress incoming air before combustion to enable sustained flight at hypersonic speeds.

Till now such a scramjet technology for hypersonic missiles has not yet left research status, even though especially the USA are putting quite some effort into developing such a missile, that could reach almost every spot on earth and would be very hard to fight, since most missile defence systems address ballistic flight modes, not the low straight forward flight a hypersonic scramjet missile would have. Now Northrop Grumman and Raytheon are working under a $200 million Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) programme contract to deliver an affordable, effective and producible cruise missile for DARPA and the U.S. Air Force.

Graphic: Raytheon

“The Raytheon/Northrop Grumman team is quickly developing air-breathing hypersonic weapons to keep our nation ahead of the threat,” said Dr Thomas Bussing, Raytheon Advanced Missile Systems vice president. “This agreement combines Raytheon’s decades of tactical missile expertise with Northrop Grumman’s extensive scramjet engine development experience to produce the best possible weapons.”

Mike Kahn, vice president and general manager of Northrop Grumman’s Defense Systems, added: “This teaming agreement extends our strong partnership with Raytheon on this critical technology capability. Our deep heritage in propulsion, fuzes and warheads will help accelerate readiness of tomorrow’s missiles to meet range, survivability, safety and lethality requirements. Together with Raytheon, we intend to make great strides toward improving our nation’s high-speed weapon systems, which are critical to enhancing our warfighters’ capabilities for greater standoff and quicker time to target.”

Dorothee Frank