Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States will cooperate on the development of hypersonic weapons under the newly created AUKUS alliance.
“We […] committed today to commence new trilateral cooperation on hypersonics and counter-hypersonics, and electronic warfare capabilities, as well as to expand information sharing and to deepen cooperation on defense innovation,” the leaders of AUKUS announced in a joint statement on March 6, 2022.
On November 30, 2020, Australia and the United States unveiled the bilateral Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment program, or SCIFiRE, which aims at developing a new hypersonic cruise missile.
The new weapon, a precision strike missile, will be powered by an air-breathing scramjet engine, allowing it to reach Mach 5 speeds. Platforms operated by both Australia and the United States, such as the F/A-18F Super Hornet, the EA-18G Growler, and the F-35A Lightning II, as well as the P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft, should be able to employ it.
The United Kingdom will not join this program, but instead, “the three countries would work together on research and development in the area to expand their options,” according to a report from Reuters.
The AUKUS strategic alliance was created in September 2021 “to deepen cooperation on cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, and additional undersea capabilities”.
Hypersonic weapons have become a priority of the United States military with the emergence of similar platforms in the arsenals of other world powers, such as the Russian Zircon and Kinzhal missiles or the Chinese DF-ZF. On March 19, 2022, Russia reported having used Kinzhal ballistic missiles, able to fly at the speed of Mach 10 or 12,000 kilometers per hour, at least twice to target military facilities in Ukraine.