The U.S. Air Force awarded Raytheon Technologies a $985 million contract to continue development of a new hypersonic missile.
The deal includes “design, development, and initial delivery through the performance of model-based critical design review, qualification, integration, manufacturing, and testing,” of the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile, known as HACM (pronounced: Hack-um)
“With advanced threats emerging around the globe, the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile will provide our warfighters a much-needed capability,” Wes Kremer, president of Raytheon Missiles & Defense, said in a statement.
The Air Force chose Raytheon, which partnered with Northrop Grumman, over bids from Boeing and Lockheed Martin. All three companies had been working under Air Force contracts to develop technology that will be used in the fast-flying missile.
U.S. defense leaders wanted to accelerate development of hypersonic weapons in response to similar weapons manufactured by Russia and China. Hypersonic weapons can fly faster than five times the speed of sound while maneuvering, making them difficult to track and shoot down.
The military has been developing different types of hypersonic weapons: glide vehicles, which are launched by a rocket before gliding to a target on the ground, and cruise missiles, which are powered by scramjet engines.
“The Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile creates a new class of strategically important weapons for the U.S. military,” Mary Petryszyn, president of Northrop Grumman Defense Systems, said in a statement. “Our scramjet propulsion technology is ushering in a new era for faster, more survivable, and highly capable weapons.”
Thursday’s contract “signals a progress on the larger hypersonic strike enterprise with the entree of the air-breathing side of the family,” said Tom Karako, director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Until now, it’s been mainly gliders.”
Lockheed Martin is developing the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon, a gliding hypersonic weapon.
The Pentagon asked Congress to approve $4.7 billion for hypersonic research in fiscal 2023, according to the Congressional Research Service. Lawmakers have yet to pass a defense appropriation, despite the fiscal year ending next week.
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