Hypersonic Candidates Emerge For U.S. Navy’s Next Anti-Ship Missile

Artist's concept of HAWC scramjet
Credit: Raytheon

The U.S. Navy will consider hypersonic and high-supersonic designs for the service’s next anti-ship cruise missile. 

Budget justification documents released by the Navy on May 29 list the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) and the Supersonic Propulsion Enabled Advanced Ramjet (SPEAR) demonstrators as candidates for the Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare (OASuW) Increment II program. 

By leveraging designs already involved with rapid prototyping programs, the Navy believes it is “setting the stage for aggressive schedule execution in this area,” according to the Navy’s justification document. 

The disclosure comes nearly a month after the Navy published a sources-sought notice or OASuW-II, kick-starting the market research phase. 

A competitive solicitation process will begin soon, with the final request for proposal scheduled for release by the Navy in January 2022. 
The candidates for OASuW-II suggest the Navy plans to adopt a far more powerful anti-ship weapon than the stealthy, subsonic Lockheed Martin AGM-158C Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) and the subsonic Boeing AGM-84 Harpoon. 

The HAWC program, which is funded by DARPA and the Air Force Research Laboratory, supports competing designs by Lockheed Martin/Aerojet and Raytheon/Northrop Grumman teams. Both feature a scramjet propulsion system capable of speeds over Mach 5. 

The Boeing SPEAR demonstrator, which is funded by the Joint Hypersoinc Transition Office, is seeking to adapt a solid-fuel ramjet for a Navy application. 

The Navy also could consider other concepts for what it describes as the “high-speed” missile for OASuW-II. “The Navy will also explore and consider new concepts proposed by industry,” according to the budget justification. 

Boeing also has revived research on a dual-combustion ramjet funded by the Navy’s unsuccessful HyFly hypersonic cruise missile demonstrator over a decade ago. 

The high-speed application marks a return to the Navy’s original concept for the OASuW program, which started as a DARPA project in 2009. 

In the original vision, Lockheed offered to adapt the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range into the LRASM anti-ship cruise missile as a low-risk option called LRASM-A. Lockheed also proposed a higher-risk concept called LRASM-B, which called for adapting a rocket/ramjet propulsion system originally tested by the Strategic Air-Launched Missile program in 1979 and 1980. 

In the meantime, Russia plans to field the hypersonic Zircon anti-ship cruise missile on the Admiral Gorshkov frigate later this year. China, meanwhile, has fielded the YJ-18 cruise missile, which can reach Mach 3 in the terminal phase.

Steve Trimble

Steve covers military aviation, missiles and space for the Aviation Week Network, based in Washington DC.