The Pentagon relies more than ever on DARPA for its hypersonic programs

If, in the 90s, 2000s and 2010s, the United States had research programs in the hypersonic field, such as X-51 Waverider, the subject was considered of less importance by the Pentagon, and only benefited from limited credits and especially no application program to follow. But when in March 2018, Vladimir Putin announced the entry into service of the airborne hypersonic missile Kinzhal, far from representing a remarkable scientific breakthrough in the field, things changed radically in Washington, and the development of hypersonic systems very quickly became one of the strategic challenges for the American armed forces. The entry into service of Chinese DF-17, the upcoming arrival of 3M22 Tzirkon hypersonic anti-ship missile Russian, and successful tests of a North Korean hypersonic glider, only reinforced the determination of Washington, which promised to invest $15 billion in the field between 2015 and 2025.

To respond to the emergency, the Pentagon turned to a safe bet, the innovation agency of the Department of Defense DARPA, already at the helm for the X-51, and simultaneously launched several programs studying different technological avenues. . If the program based on a powder booster, yet supposed to be the most accessible and fast to develop from a technological point of view, encountered successive failures leading to its abandonment in 2023, the HAWC program based on a Scramjet-type aerobic thruster has been carried out successfully, and DARPA now intends, with the US Air Force and the manufacturers Lockheed-Martin and Raytheon, to take a new step in 2023 in order to allow a secure transition to an operational military program, by consolidating the technology of the Scramjet, its operational and industrial applicability, and by de-risking all of these aspects, and is requesting, within the framework of the 2023 budget, a line of credit of $60 million to continue the HAWC program, renamed MoHawc for the occasion, name of a tribe of Native Americans established in Quebec belonging to the Iroquois confederacy.

The DF-17 is a Chinese ballistic missile wearing a hypersonic glider, premiered in 2019 on the occasion of the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the People's Liberation Army

However, the MoHawk program is not the only one developed by DARPA in the field of hypersonic weapons. Thus, still within the framework of the 2023 budget, DARPA is requesting a line of $30 million for the Tactical Boost Glide program, a system consisting of a booster carrying a glider with hypersonic speed, so as to have a tactical and relatively light system for initiating strikes against enemy systems and infrastructures on a tactical scale, like, for example , what the Chinese DF-17 can do. Jointly developed with the US Air Force; the Tactical Boost Glide could however be airborne, like the Russian Kinshal, while having a hypersonic glider offering much superior maneuvering performance to counter the opponent's anti-missile defenses.


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