The U.S. Air Force has awarded a second contract to develop a new hypersonic weapon that would move five times the speed of sound.
The service on Monday awarded Lockheed Martin Corp. a contract — not to exceed $480 million — to begin designing a second hypersonic prototype, according to a release.
“We are going to go fast and leverage the best technology available to get hypersonic capability to the warfighter as soon as possible,” said Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson.
Leaders from the Defense Department, Missile Defense Agency, Air Force, Navy and Army signed a memorandum June 28 to cooperate and help develop “hypersonic boost glide” technology, the release said.
As part of a rapid prototyping scheme, the Air Force is working with Lockheed to develop the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW, pronounced “Arrow”). The rapid prototyping effort, made possible through authorities in the fiscal 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, “will provide the critical design review, test and production readiness support” for the project, the release said.
The Air Force hopes to achieve a capable weapon by 2021, it added.
The second contract award comes after Pentagon officials said in recent months they fear the U.S. may be lagging behind in hypersonics, while rivals Russia and China have created national programs of record and reported recent advances.
“We have lost our technical advantage in hypersonics; we haven’t lost the hypersonics fight,” Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Air Force Gen. Paul Selva told reporters in January. “China has made it a national program, so China’s willing to spend tens to up to hundreds of billions to solve the problem of hypersonic flight, hypersonic target designation, and then ultimately engagement.”
Hypersonic technology offers supersonic speeds of Mach 5 or above.
Full article: Air Force Doubles Down on Hypersonic Weapons Development with 2nd Contract (DefenseTech)