How do you face advanced global threats? With a missile so fast it could travel from New York to Los Angeles in 39 minutes flat.
Hypersonic weapons can travel at five times the speed of sound (Mach 5 and faster), covering vast distances in minutes. They fall into two categories: boost glide and scramjet.
In a boost glide system, “a rocket accelerates its payload to high speeds. The payload then separates from the rocket and glides unpowered to its destination,” according to the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, website.
Scramjet technology uses a booster to reach cruising speeds. The scramjet engine is designed to compress the high-velocity, incoming air before combustion. This technology, also called “air breathing,” renders a highly efficient engine at hypersonic speeds.
The need for speed
Why hypersonics? System effectiveness and the need for speed.
In terms of effectiveness, the speed and altitude at which these vehicles fly significantly challenge an adversary’s ability to detect, track, target and engage. Both are key for aiding access to hostile environments, which improves the effectiveness of more conventional weapon systems.
As for speed, a hypersonic weapon traveling at rates greater than Mach 5 is flying at least a mile per second. This kind of velocity allows us to reach fleeting targets well before they get away.
Guiding a hypersonic vehicle to its target is challenging. A missile heats up as it accelerates through the atmosphere and its sensitive inner electronics must be protected from blazing temperatures without adding extra weight, which can affect speed, range and guidance.
Raytheon engineers are advancing technologies and skills to meet and overcome these challenges. We’re using state-of-the art expertise, our decades of experience and company resources to accelerate development of hypersonic weapons by investing in new infrastructure, people and technology. Fielding these weapons is vital to our national security.
The company is pursuing several hypersonic weapon platforms with complementary, versatile capabilities. Deployable from land, sea and air, these weapons will be able to perform multiple missions. Raytheon is also developing counter-hypersonic solutions designed to stop enemy hypersonic weapons.