The Pentagon awarded Raytheon Technologies a $985 million contract to design, develop and produce a new hypersonic weapon for the US Air Force.
Raytheon won the contract to develop and demonstrate scramjet-powered hypersonic cruise missiles. It moves the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile, or HACM program, out of the prototyping phase and into becoming an operational weapon. It takes the number of companies aiming to build the new weapon from three to one.
Raytheon was awarded the "task order" for the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile that calls for weapon system design, development and initial delivery expected to be completed by March 2027.
The HACM, which has been co-developed with the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, will use air- breathing propulsion to reach five times the speed of sound. -Bloomberg
HCAM will become USAF's second hypersonic missile after Lockheed's AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon, or ARRW, a hypersonic weapon launched from a B-52 bomber then glides to its target at super-fast speeds in an unpredictable path.
"HACM will provide our commanders with tactical flexibility to employ fighters to hold high-value, time-sensitive targets at risk while maintaining bombers for other strategic targets," Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr., said.
"Hypersonic weapons such as the HACM can fly multiple times the speed of sound and can maneuver mid-flight, making them hard for enemies to track and shoot down," Defense News noted.
A report by the Congressional Research Service said USAF officials indicated HACM could be deployed on fighter jets and long-range bombers.
Meanwhile, there are increasing concerns the US is falling behind in the global hypersonic weapon arms race. Unlike Russia and China, the US has yet to field a hypersonic weapon.
It was only Thursday when Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy chairman of Russia's Security Council, warned:
"Hypersound [hypersonic weapons] will be able to reach targets in Europe and in the United States much faster, guaranteed."
The question remains if the US can field hypersonic cruise missiles and hypersonic glide vehicles before the Ukraine conflict broadens.