PilotPhotog Podcast

Hypersonic Weapons for the Super Hornet

September 13, 2021 PilotPhotog Season 1 Episode 30
PilotPhotog Podcast
Hypersonic Weapons for the Super Hornet
Show Notes Transcript

Let’s take a look at the X-51 Waverider and how the Super Hornet could be getting a hypersonic weapons upgrade!
The Navy’s current air deployed anti-ship weapon is the AGM-84 Harpoon, which has been in service for decades.  With over 7,000 examples built it is hard to argue that the Harpoon has been a successful design, however with its subsonic speeds and the quickly escalating capabilities of near peer adversaries, a faster longer ranged missile is needed.  As a result the  US Navy has begun  researching what it would take to produce a hypersonic anti-ship missile that could be deployed from the Super Hornet.  

Today we will take a look at some of the developments in the ongoing hypersonic missile research programs and how they would conceptually work on the Super Hornet. 

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PilotPhotog (0s):
Let's take a look at the X 51 wave rider and how the super Hornet could be getting a hypersonic weapons upgrade. The Navy's current air deployed anti-ship weapon is the AGM 84 harpoon, which has been in service for decades. The AGM 84 has actually one of three versions of the harpoon. The other two being the RGM 84, which is lunch from surface ships. And the third is the UGM 84, which can be launched from submarines. With over 7,000 examples, built an operator spanning the free world. It is hard to argue against the harpoon being a successful design, however, with its subsonic speeds and the quickly escalating capabilities of near peer adversaries there, harpoon could potentially be losing its effectiveness.

PilotPhotog (54s):
It is becoming more evident that a hypersonic anti-ship missile would be effective in neutralizing enemy point defense systems by virtue of their greater than Mach five speeds with a hypersonic missile, theoretically, an attack could be launched from a thousand miles away, take less than 15 minutes to reach its target and leave the defender with little or no warning. As a result. The air force and Navy have once again, revived their efforts into hypersonic weapons, missile research. There are basically two types of hypersonic missiles boost, glide hypersonic vehicles, which use a booster to accelerate up to speeds of Mach 20 and then deploy a glider which maneuvers to the target or strictly aerodynamic types, which also use a booster, but then activate a Ram jet or scram jet to accelerate further.

PilotPhotog (1m 40s):
Unlike traditional ballistic weapons, such as ICBM's, which follow a predictable flight path and can be intercepted. Both types of hypersonic missiles, Kevin knew were on their way to the target, thereby becoming unpredictable and evading enemy defenses. And in the words of the vice chairman of the joint chiefs of staff hypersonic weapons could enable quotes responsive long range strike options against distant defended and or time critical threats where other forces are unavailable, denied access or not preferred and quote. Today, we will look at some of the developments in the ongoing hypersonic missile research programs and how they would conceptually work on the super Hornet.

PilotPhotog (2m 22s):
One quick note currently, the us is looking at using hypersonic weapons with conventional armaments, China and Russia are also working on hypersonic weapons, but use nuclear warheads. Instead more on that later hypersonic weapons research in the U S goes back to the early two thousands. In 2002, the high fly program was initiated by the defense advanced research projects, agency or DARPA and the office of Naval research or ONR bawling and arrow. Jack cooperatively built a prototype, which was launched from an F 15 E strike Eagle. In total three tests were performed between 2007 and 2010, but combinations of software booster and battery issues because each of the three tests to end in failure back in 2004 and NASA's X 34 hypersonic research aircraft perform two successful record-breaking flights, attaining speeds of Mach 6.8 and then mark 9.6, these two X 34 flights represented the world's first scramjet powered hypersonic flights.

PilotPhotog (3m 25s):
A scram jet is a supersonic combustion Ram jet with the notable difference that in a scramjet the airflow remained supersonic even at the exhaust. Additionally in 2006, NASA is dried in research center, mountain and inert AME 54 Phoenix missile under their F 15 B aircraft and investigated the possibilities of using the Phoenix as a test vehicle. You've now seen a Phoenix missile on an Eagle achievement unlocked. Next came the wave rider. The X 51 wave rider is a scramjet research experimental aircraft designed for hypersonic flights at Mach five plus speeds and altitudes of 70,000 feet receiving its official X 51 designation in 2005.

PilotPhotog (4m 9s):
The wave rider completed its first hypersonic flight in may of 2010. Following two unsuccessful flights in may of 2013, the X 51 flew over six minutes while sustaining Mach five speeds for 210 seconds. The word wave rider in aviation terms, as you referenced the aircraft, which make use of compression lift generated by their own shock waves. An early example of this was the XP 70 Valkyrie bomber, which used mechanically actuated wingtips that would be lowered to help generate compression lift being an aerodynamic hypersonic vehicle. The X 51 is actually composed of two parts. The first part is a solid rocket booster, which is the same as the ones used by the rockets fired from the Army's M two 70 multiple launch rocket system, or MLRs this booster accelerates the X 51 to a speed of about Mach 4.5 before burning out and being jettisoned at which point, the Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne S J Y six one scram jet then accelerates the X 51 to speeds approaching Mach six in flight tests.

PilotPhotog (5m 13s):
The X 51 has been carried aboard a B 52 up to an altitude of around 50,000 feet before being launched. Interestingly, the X 51 represents the air Force's most significant reinvestment into hypersonic research since the X 15, which flew over 60 years ago, I made a video about the X 15 and I'll leave a link in the description below getting back to the wave rider. The X 51 has potential, but has a relatively high scramjet activation speed typically around mock four. This means that a larger or heavier boosters needed to attain these higher speeds. However, just last year, Congress established the joint hypersonic transition office, which has provided funding to Boeing, to complete preliminary design and ground testing for a dual combustion Ram jet.

PilotPhotog (6m 1s):
A dual combustion Ram jet would have lower activation speeds and could theoretically be made smaller and lighter. This new effort is being called high fly to and has the goal of awarding contracts for hypersonic missiles in fiscal 2022. As a result, the Navy is hopeful. The dual combustion ramjet can be made small and light enough to Mount on a super Hornet. The official requirement is for the super Hornet to be able to equip up to four of these missiles and still be able to land on a carrier with all the missiles on board Boeing's high flight, two will likely compete against other technology demonstrators in development, which include a Lockheed Martin Aerojet entry and a Raytheon Northrop Grumman entry.

PilotPhotog (6m 42s):
There are plans to fly the competing demonstrators by the end of this year under their hypersonic air breathing weapon concept or HAWC program, which is jointly funded by DARPA and the air force a super Hornet equipped with these missiles would both prove to be a deterrent to potential hostile forces seeking to attack a carrier group, as well as provide first strike capabilities to neutralize high value targets with little warning, given their very long range, the super horny could stay well out of the defender's engagement zone and use stealth assets such as or <inaudible> to designate a target for the missile to fire on conceivably drones launched from submarines could also perform this targeting task.

PilotPhotog (7m 25s):
Additionally growlers can provide electronic countermeasures support for the hypersonic arms, super Hornet, providing a further layer of protection without a doubt. Any fighter size hypersonic missile will be very expensive and initially available in relatively low numbers. Once again, making the case for the use and only the highest priority targets, therefore there still is a place for the AGM 84 harpoon just no longer, perhaps is the first option. Meanwhile, the air force has been working on the AGM when 83 air launched rapid response weapon or a R R w the AGM 180 3 is a boost glide hypersonic weapon, which boosts the missile, the speeds of up to Mach 20, and then the war had glides and maneuvers to its target.

PilotPhotog (8m 9s):
Currently the AGM 83 has been fitted to a B 52 for testing. The air force has considering using its remaining fleet of B one bombers to carry up to 31 AGM when 80 threes and be used as a launch platform, a booster test of the AGM 180 3 was conducted in April of 2021, but did not successfully launch as mentioned earlier, China and Russia are also developing hypersonic missiles. However, in both cases, the intention is to arm the missiles with nuclear payloads. And as a result do not require as much precision as the missiles the U S has working on. For example, China has been working on a nuclear capable, a LBM or air launched ballistic missile and has given it the designation of C H a S X 13.

PilotPhotog (8m 55s):
China has also performed tests as recently as 2018 on a scramjet vehicle called the starry sky two. At the same time, Russia Xerocon hypersonic anti-ship missile could be using a scram jet propulsion system, but it is unknown at this time. The exact technologies that are used in the Xerocon given these developments, the United States is ramping up its efforts to enter a new area of mass production of hypersonic missiles with a legacy of hypersonic research and test aircraft that they all the way back to the 1950s and the X 15. There's a large amount of experience to learn from including the advanced maneuvering re-entry or a M a R V program that ran until 1988.

PilotPhotog (9m 37s):
And of course the space shuttle, which provided over 30 years of data on hypersonic reentry procedures today Boeing's X 37 orbital test vehicle, which is a reusable robotic spacecraft continues to provide data on hypersonic research. All of this research and development could produce a fighter sized hypersonic anti-ship missile within the next four to five years, which would breathe new life into the super Hornet and provide a significant deterrent to near peer adversaries who are intent on taking out a carrier battle group. What do you think are hypersonic missiles, the weapon of the future? Could they change air to air combat? Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to subscribe to this podcast.

PilotPhotog (10m 20s):
So you don't miss any future episodes. You can also check out my YouTube channel. I'll leave the link in the show notes below. And lastly, you can find me on any social media platform at pilot photog be well, stay safe and see you next time.