MELBOURNE, Australia – Australia and the US are working together to develop and test a hypersonic air-launched cruise missile as part of the bilateral Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment (SCIFiRE) program, the two countries announced on Monday.
From a US perspective, the effort falls under the Allied Prototyping Initiative, which is administered by the Directorate of Advanced Skills in the Office of the Undersecretary of State for Defense for Research and Technology.
The program is run by the U.S. Air Force under the auspices of the Weapons Program Officer and is based on more than 15 years of collaboration between the two countries in research into scramjets, rocket motors, sensors and advanced manufacturing materials.
The deal follows the talks between former US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Australian Defense Secretary Linda Reynolds during the Australian-US bilateral consultative talks held in Washington in July.
“SCIFiRE is true testament to the enduring friendship and strong partnership between the United States and Australia,” said Michael Kratsios, Undersecretary of State for Defense in Research and Technology, in a statement. “This initiative will be critical to the future of hypersonic research and development and will ensure that the US and our allies lead the world in advancing this ability to combat the war of transformation. We thank the Australian Department of Defense for their shared commitment to this pioneering effort. “
The SCIFIRE program will capitalize on the collaboration carried out in collaboration with the Royal Australian Air Force, the Australian Defense Science and Technology Group and the University of Queensland as part of the Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation program.
The new weapon will be a Mach 5-class precision missile fired from the engine and powered by an air-breathing scramjet engine. It is expected to enter service in the next five to ten years.
The head of the Air Force division at RAAF headquarters in Canberra, Air Vice Marshal Catherine Roberts, said the weapon could be carried by tactical fighter jets like the F / A-18F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler and F-. 35A Lightning II and the P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.
The tests will take place in Australia, possibly in the Woomera Test Range in the remote outback of South Australia.
Though no funding details have been released so far, Roberts said Australia’s most recent 2020 Force Structure Plan would cost between AU $ 6.2 and AU $ 9.3 billion (AU $ 4.6 billion to $ 6.9 billion) for high-speed, long-range strike and missile defense capabilities contained. SCIFiRE is an example of this.
Although the RAAF is not currently seeking an industry first to support the program, Roberts stated that talks with Australian small and medium-sized businesses will begin on Friday.
“[The Australian Defence Science and Technology Group] has done some initial studies of our capabilities in Australia and we will bring our industrial partners on board. It’s not just a research and development initiative, we want to actually take advantage of the opportunities, ”she said.