The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) published a solicitation for a $334 million hypersonic demonstrator missile contract with proposals by defense companies to be submitted by May and contract award in December.
AFRL has remained secretive about its new Mayhem project to develop and demonstrate a large-class air-breathing hypersonic missile. Vendors will receive the proposal requirements package by March 15 and submit offers by May 24. The branch expects to award a contract on December 5.
The Mayhem program aims to deliver a hypersonic weapon to the military with "strike, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance features." It says the new missile will have a "standardized payload" and "multiple opportunities to integrate various payloads."
Not much is known about the project. In December, AFRL indicated Mayhem was short for "Hypersonic Multi-mission ISR and Strike."
"The Mayhem Program is focused on delivering a larger class air-breathing hypersonic system capable of executing multiple missions with a standardized payload interface, providing a significant technological advancement and future capability," AFRL's document said in December.
"The system goal is to carry payloads five times the mass and double the range of current technology capability systems. The standardized payload interface would create multiple opportunities for various payload integration within the same hypersonic system," AFRL continued.
The missile's "current technology capability systems" were not published. Details about the missile's speed remain scant, though hypersonic typically refers to objects traveling faster than Mach 5, or 3,836 mph.
The U.S. remains in the development phase of its hypersonic weapons and has yet to field one. Meanwhile, Russia and China are quickly fielding hypersonic missiles while the U.S. suffers testing setbacks.