A $14 million Defence research precinct has opened in Brisbane to facilitate collaborative research on hypersonic technology between industry, universities, and international partners.
The precinct can accommodate more than 60 staff and is located at Eagle Farm, where the Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG) has a facility. The DSTG has been actively researching and testing hypersonic technology in conjunction with the US Air Force Research Laboratory since 2006, and the tech has reached commercial maturity.
Flight that reaches speeds of at least five times the speed of sound is considered hypersonic. An aircraft fitted with this technology could potentially cut the journey between Sydney and London to two hours.
“It’s a complex technological challenge to build vehicles capable of flying at five times the speed of sound, that skim the stratosphere, to target any location on the planet,” Defence Minister Peter Dutton said in a statement.
“The technology that is developed here will help us to better defend against the malign use of this technology, and give us the ability to strike any potential adversaries from a distance and deter aggression against Australia’s national interests.
“It enables Defence researchers to develop and characterise sovereign hypersonic technologies and generate ‘true’ hypersonic flight conditions at large scale in a classified laboratory,” he said.
Collaboration between the DSTG and USAF has been conducted through a $54 million Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation (HIFiRE) program, in partnership with the University of Queensland, BAE Systems and Boeing.
This led to the launch of the Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment in 2020 to develop air deployed Mach 5-class precision strike missiles.
Prior to the opening of the precinct, Queensland was already a hub for hypersonic innovation, which also hosts the hypersonic research centre at UQ and the commercial startup Hypersonix Launch Systems.
UQ is host to a wind tunnel capable of testing hypersonic machinery. It has also tested hypersonic rockets through the HyShot series since 2001. In 2002, it conducted the world’s first atmospheric test of a scramjet, and in 2017 tested a rocket that reached Mach 8 as a part of HIFiRE.
Hypersonix uses the technology developed at UQ to produce reusable hypersonic space rockets. The company recently signed a deal with the University of Sydney to produce parts for the Delta-Velos, an unmanned vehicle fitted with carbon-neutral propulsion, with the potential to reach 10 times the speed of sound.
Reacting to the announcement, rocket motor manufacturer Thales Australia reiterated its commitment to actively supporting hypersonic development in Australia through its ongoing collaboration with the Commonwealth government.
“Thales Australia already works with more than 600 Australian small and medium enterprises and a large range of weapons systems Primes to ensure the ADF receives the locally manufactured munitions they need,” Thales Australia chief executive Chris Jenkins said.
“We look forward to the expansion of the defence ecosystem at Eagle Farm, where Thales currently has around 150 highly skilled and experienced staff supporting ADF programs.”
The Defence Minister’s office says that the precinct is a part of the federal government’s decade spanning $3 billion dollar capability investment across Defence innovation, science, and technology.
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