Australian Super Hornets will test launch American hypersonic cruise missiles

The Royal Australian Air Force, which operates F/A-18F Super Hornets, will test launch prototypes of the US Air Force's hypersonic attack cruise missile as part of the development of that weapon.

The HACM missiles, which the Air Force hopes will begin fielding in limited numbers in 2027, were developed with US-Australia cooperation and are intended to help the country acquire its own hypersonic cruise missile capability. air launch.

Specific details of the HACM design are limited.

"The missile consists of two stages, a rocket booster and a jet cruiser that separates from the booster and finally moves towards its target," the reports said.

The expected maximum speed of the rocket is unknown, but hypersonic speed is usually defined above Mach 5.

The Air Force has said in the past that it plans to integrate the HACM first on the F-15E Strike Eagle, but expectations have long been that the missile would eventually enter the arsenal of other aircraft.

At least some level of integration work will be required to utilize Australian F/A-18Fs as launch test platforms.

Reportedly, the main reason for using RAAF Super Hornets to assist in HACM testing was related to "availability and test range limitations," which "have been a problem for hypersonic programs" in general.

The congressional watchdog says that flight testing of the HACM could begin as soon as next October and should last until March 2027.

The US military certainly faces limitations when it comes to testing infrastructure and supporting assets to aid hypersonic development programs.

Significant investments have been made in recent years to remedy this, including the purchase of a fleet of modified RQ-4 Global Hawk drones called Range Hawks for use in data collection during hypersonic flight tests.

Australia has the capability to support those drones, raising the possibility that the Range Hawks could help with future hypersonic testing in that country.

 

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