The US-based defence giant Lockheed Martin has presented the concept for its HAWC hypersonic air-breathing missiles for the US Navy's F-35C Joint Strike Fighter, The Drive reports. The company demonstrated a visual version of the stealth fighter, carrying a missile under each wing, at the Navy League's annual Sea, Air, Space convention in the US. The first flight with the HAWC, which was initially developed as a land attack weapon, is to take place before 2020.
As the outlet points out, the F-35C jet is pictured carrying the missiles externally, which could impact its stealth qualities. However, the fighters will get an intrinsic stand-off capability thanks to the speed and the range of the hypersonic missiles.
The maritime strike variant of Lockheed Martin’s hypersonic missile and its follow-on variants could also be used by other Navy fighters, namely the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, larger platforms, like the P-8A Poseidon patrol jets or B-1 or B-52 bombers, The Drive suggested. It noted, however, that these developments seemed far from being in the implementation stage.
The new generation hypersonic weapons, like HAWC or the unpowered boost-glide vehicle, developed under another US programme, Tactical Boost Glide (TBG), is believed to be a game-changer for striking time-sensitive and critical targets. Its manoeuver characteristics make it harder to defend against in comparison to ballistic weapons.
Last year, the US Air Force with the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) agreed to pay Lockheed Martin $928 million to develop hypersonic air-breathing missiles. The Drive points out that the HAWC’s first flight is to take place in the next fiscal year, which begins in October and runs until September 2020.