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The US and Australian Departments of Defense have announced a bilateral effort to advance the development of air-breathing hypersonic technologies. The Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment (SCIFiRE) 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. The Department of the Air Force, under the direction of the Weapons Program Executive Officer, is responsible for the execution of the programme.

“SCIFiRE is a true testament to the enduring friendship and strong partnership between the United States and Australia,” said Michael Kratsios, Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. “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 war-fighting capability,” he added.

The SCIFiRE effort aims to cooperatively advance air-breathing hypersonic technologies into full-sized prototypes that are affordable and provide a flexible, long range capability, culminating in flight demonstrations in operationally relevant conditions. 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) programme. SCIFiRE continues collaborative research efforts involving the US Air Force, US Navy, the Royal Australian Air Force Headquarters in addition to the Australian Defence Science and Technology Group.

US & Australia Co-operate

“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. “Working with our Defence scientists here in Australia and our partners in the US Air Force and across the U.S. Department of Defense on leading edge capabilities brings out the best in our Air Force team,” Hupfeld added.

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 capitalise on the use of the industrial base within both countries.

Jack Richardson