DARPA's HAWC hypersonic cruise missile successfully completed its maiden flight

In the field of hypersonic weapons, 3 main propulsion families face each other: hypersonic gliders which are implemented by ballistic missiles before being released at very high altitude and high speed, and which manage to maintain their hypersonic speed by taking advantage of gravity; ballistic or semi-ballistic missiles using rocket-type propulsion that simultaneously carries fuel and oxidizer to produce thrust; and so-called aerobic systems employing a new type of engine, the Scramjet, which like a jet engine, uses atmospheric oxygen as an oxidizer to produce thrust. Obviously, this last solution is by far the most effective, since it allows to design much lighter armaments, or of equivalent mass, endowed with a range much greater than the use of a rocket engine, and in all cases, much more economical than the ballistic missile - hypersonic glider pair. Unfortunately, it is also the most complex solution to implement from a technological point of view.

Indeed, the scramjet has for many years been considered the holy grail of aero engines, and many attempts to design such an engine that is efficient over time and economical in use have been shattering failures. Unlike a traditional turbojet, in which the compressors make it possible to slow down the air flow to a subsonic speed allowing the combustion of the air-fuel mixture to be controlled, the Scramjet must indeed succeed in slowing down an air flow exceeding Mach 5. on entry to the mouth, for the same result, without excessively overheating the atmospheric air itself. Many countries have started important work in this area, including France, India et Japan. But it is undoubtedly Russia which holds the top of the paving stones, with the 3M22 Tzirkon hypersonic missile, first missile based on a scramjet to have been tested in real conditions, and which will be the first hypersonic anti-ship missile to enter service by the end of this year, or early next year aboard the new 22350 Admiral Golocko frigate. The success announced by DARPA today deals with this technology.

The Russian 3M22 Tzirkon anti-ship missile is the first hypersonic cruise missile to incorporate a scramjet. It will enter service by the end of 2021 aboard the new frigate Admiral Golocko

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