January 18, 2012

Aussie Scramjet Missile - Early Development

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

TALOS booster rocket carrying the HyCAUSE scramjet experimental payload lifts off the launch pad at Woomera in Australia

Scramjets are air-breathing supersonic combustion ramjet engines. Australia's Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) successfully launched one on June 15, 2007 [Aussie time].

The TALOS rocket reached an altitude of 530 kilometres before re-entering the earth's atmosphere allowing the HyCAUSE scramjet engine to be successfully ignited. The scramjet engine experiment reached speeds of up to Mach 10, approximately 11,000 km per hour, or ten times the speed of sound.
The flight took place at the Woomera Test Facility in South Australia under a collaborative effort between the United States’ Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and DSTO, also representing the research collaborators in the Australian Hypersonics Initiative (AHI).

"This test has obtained the first ever flight data on the inward-turning scramjet engine design," said Dr. Steven Walker, Deputy Director of the Tactical Technology Office at DARPA. "DARPA will compare this flight data to ground test data measured on the same engine configuration in the US."

The technology has the potential to put numerous defence and civilian aerospace applications within our reach during the next couple of decades.

Hypersonics is the study of velocities greater than five times the speed of sound (Mach 5) and could have a significant impact on Defence as well as on international transport and future access to space.

Future defence applications for hypersonic vehicles include long-range time critical missions (ie missiles, bombers and UAVs) with civilian applications including "low-cost" [thats what they all say!] satellite launching and high-speed aircraft.

As part of its continuing commitment to a research program in Hypersonics, in November last year DSTO signed the $74 million Hypersonics International Flight Research Experimentation (HiFire) Agreement with the United States Air Force. Up to ten Hypersonic flight experiments are planned to occur at Woomera over the next five years under the agreement.
It should be noted that scientists and engineers at the University of Queensland did early, groundbreaking research for the Australian scramjet effort.


The scramjet missile and aircraft is only at an early stage of development. Most technical problems need to be ironed out before it becomes a practical flight technology.

A hypersonic scramjet cruise missile within the next 20 years may fill a gap in Australia offensive [known as "defence"] capability.
Scramjets will likely propel missiles first, since that application requires only cruise operation after a rocket pack gives the missile sufficient speed for the scramjet to kick in.

The prospect of commercial passenger scramjets (say Sydney to London) or bombers will take longer to develop as rocket assist is not conducive to pilot or passenger comfort or even survival. Rocket assisted scramjet aircraft taking off horizontally in populated areas would also be enormously noisy.

In terms of military uses current Harpoon missiles in Australia's armoury (and perhaps Tomahawk cruise missiles if ordered one day) are relatively slow to target and vulnerable to the latest Russian produced anti aircraft missiles which may, on day, be exported to regional countries. Something faster is needed.

Traditional ballistic missiles (which also happen to be hypersonic) may be too large and too controversial to be fielded.
Scramjets are an "explosive neutral" technology, so far. With scramjets approaching the hypersonic speed of ballistic missiles you get speed but not the heat/sigint signatures of ballistic missiles. Hence an enemy won't necessarily overreact as it won't automatically assume that it is under nuclear attack from almost always nuclear tipped ballistic missiles..
Scramjet missiles may be favoured if if they are small enough to be launched from existing Australian platforms including: