US, Australia to sign SCIFiRE hypersonics agreement

Australia and the United States will today sign an agreement on the development of hypersonic cruise missiles which could eventually be fitted to aircraft.

Hypersonic missiles travel greater than five times the speed of sound, and are difficult to intercept due to their speed and unpredictable flight trajectories. 

According to The Australian Financial Review, the new Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment (SCIFiRE) agreement will cover research, building and testing hypersonic missiles. Local industry, particularly SMEs, will be invited to participate in the new program. 

The two countries have cooperated on hypersonic scramjet, missile and sensor work for the last 15 years.

The news follows the July Defence Force Structure Plan announcement, with key air domain investments over a decade including up to $9.3 billion on “high-speed long- range strike, including hypersonics research.” 

“Developing this game-changing capability with the United States from an early stage is providing opportunities for Australian industry,” defence minister Linda Reynolds said.

“Investing in capabilities that deter actions against Australia also benefits our region, our allied, and our partners.”

Australia has pockets of research excellence in the field, particularly at University of Queensland. UQ spinout Hypersonix recently received an Accelerating Commercialisation Grant, supporting development of an Australian manufactured hydrogen-fuelled scramjet engine, designed to put small satellites into low-level orbit.

Nine Entertainment newspapers report that the defence range to host upcoming development and testing with the US has not been selected.

As reported by @AuManufacturing, BAE Systems Australia released video last month showing the launch of HIFiRE, a hypersonic flight test at the Woomera Range in South Australia.

Picture: University of Queensland

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