Indo-Pacific has a new dimension, Australia that had reset its strategic goals some months ago, has now announced it has joined hands with the US to make a hypersonic missile which can be air launched and travel 1600 kms to hit targets.
Clearly the missile is aimed at stopping the enemy far away from shores and the announcement comes in the middle of spat Australia has had with China after a spokesperson in Beijing tweeted a fake image of an Australian soldier killing a Afghan child.
Large part of the recent decision making in Canberra is fuelled by China’s growing belligerence in the Indo-Pacific. Australia is planning to buy such 200 missiles which can carried by its existing fleet of planes including F/A 18 Super Hornets, Joint Strike Fighters and Boeing P8 surveillance planes.
In June this year Australia unveiled a $270 billion 10-year defence plan to project military power to the region. It aims to pursue cutting-edge weaponry like directed energy weapons and hypersonic glide vehicles. The plan has an allocation of Australian $ 65 billion for aviation and $75 billion for maritime capability. Another $ 7 billion for space warfare and $ 15 billion for cyber and info warfare.
Missile and its technology
Known as the Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment (SCIFiRE) – is the culmination of research on hypersonic scramjets, rocket motors, sensors and advanced manufacturing materials.
SCIFiRE is the second effort announced under the US Allied Prototyping Initiative (API), which was launched in 2019 by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering through its Advanced Capabilities directorate. API leverages new and existing frameworks for international cooperation in research and development, so that the U.S. and its closest Allies can co-develop high impact operational prototypes and capitalize on the use of the industrial base within both countries.
The joint proposal leverages collaborative hypersonic activities over the last 15 years, namely the Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation (HIFiRE) program. SCIFiRE continues collaborative research efforts involving the US Air Force, US Navy, the Royal Australian Air Force Headquarters, and the Australian Defence Science and Technology Group.
The SCIFiRE effort aims to cooperatively advance air-breathing hypersonic technologies into full-size prototypes that are affordable and provide a flexible, long range capability, culminating in flight demonstrations in operationally relevant conditions. The effort will pursue potential co-production opportunities between the US and Australia.
Michael Kratsios is the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering in the US. “This initiative will be essential to the future of hypersonic research and development, ensuring the U.S. and our allies lead the world in the advancement of this transformational warfighting capability,” he added.
In the US the missile progarmme started of with the DARPA and the US Air Force (USAF) trying out two variants of the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC).
Flight tests have included hydrocarbon scramjet-powered propulsion and thermal management techniques to enable prolonged hypersonic cruise, in addition to affordable system designs and manufacturing approaches.