EADS is testing hypersonic missiles capable of achieving Mach 7 at an altitude of less than 980ft (300m), as it tests aerodynamic and propulsive configurations that could eventually lead to a M12-capable air launched interceptor (ALI) missile.

Peter Gleich, of EADS/LFK's hypersonic technology demonstration programme, says tests conducted from the north coast of Germany have already demonstrated speeds of M6.62 at an altitude of less than 650ft, and lateral accelerations of "well over 100g - three times the existing capability".

The current missile being tested is dubbed the HFK-E1, using a 22,480lb-thrust (100kN) rocket motor and equipped with conventional lateral control fins.

The previous -E0 test missile used rectangular pastry-cutter-shaped "grid fins" for improved lateral control. "The grid fins are arranged crosswise to the airflow and allow very precise positioning," says Gleich.

The missiles are made primarily from carbon composite to survive the intense air friction heat during low altitude hypersonic flight. Missile surface temperatures of up to 2,700°C (4,900°F) are expected by the time the missile reaches its target.

Gleich says the team is pleased with the quality of telemetry data beamed back during flight, and test missiles have also been recovered intact from the North Sea, enabling further study.

Further work will focus on high-power rocket propulsion techniques, aerodynamics and control features, and high-temperature materials.

The technology could lead to development of a family of modular hypersonic missiles for extremely time-critical applications such as air defence against "pop-up targets" and sea-skimming missiles, boost, phase missile interception and targeting of tactical ballistic missile launchers.

Also under consideration is a hypersonic ALIto be carried by the Eurofighter Typhoon or Eurohalfunmanned air vehicle. "Size is the limiting factor for the ALI, it can't be more than 5m long and 350kg [770lb], yet be capable of sustaining M10+ flight," says Gleich.

Source: Flight International