Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $928 million contract for the development and integration of a hypersonic conventional strike weapon for the U.S. Air Force, a U.S. Department of Defense release said.
“This contract provides for the design, development, engineering, systems integration, test, logistics planning, and aircraft integration support of all the elements of a hypersonic, conventional, air-launched, stand-off weapon,” the Wednesday, April 18 release said.
The indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract has no end date.
A July 2017 solicitation on the FedBizOps website said the weapon is to be integrated on both fighter and bomber aircraft platforms.
It said the hypersonic conventional strike weapon will provide a “precision strike capability against high-value, time-critical fixed and relocatable surface targets” using a GPS and inertial guidance system for navigation and terminal guidance.
Things that travel faster than Mach 5 – five times the speed of sound or 6,125 km/h or 3,806 mph – are considered hypersonic.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said last month that the Kinzhal, a 2,000-km range air-launched hypersonic missile had entered trial service with the Russian Air Force. China reportedly has a similar system.
Mike Griffin, recently appointed Pentagon Undersecretary for Research and Engineering, said in March that hypersonics would be his top technical priority.
Griffin said that China has performed roughly “20 times as many hypersonic weapons tests as has the United States over the last decade.”
“I didn’t take this job to maintain parity,” Griffin said. “I want to ‘see and raise’ them.”
Hypersonic missiles are so fast that anti-missile systems will have problems shooting them down.
Gary Pennett, director of operations at the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, recently said enemy hypersonic weapons – which could be launched from planes, ships or submarines – would create a “significant” gap in U.S. sensor and missile interceptor capabilities.
The MDA has asked for $120 million to develop hypersonic missile defenses, a big increase from the $75 million in fiscal 2018.
“Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon Missile Systems, and Orbital ATK were the five firms “that appear to possess the necessary capability within the Air Force’s time frame without causing an unacceptable delay in meeting the needs of the warfighter,” the solicitation said, and according to the DoD release, only three offers were received.
With reporting from AFP