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US Air Force awards Lockheed Martin $1 billion hypersonic missile contract.

It appears that the US Air Force is taking recent reports of Russian and Chinese hypersonic

weapon systems seriously, Hypersonic weapons have long been considered

a potentially revolutionary weapon that permanently alter the battlefield of the future. By flying

at speeds of over Mach 5 (3,836 mph, 6,175 km/h), missiles or ballistic projectiles would

not only be far harder to engage and destroy with defences designed to combat incoming

supersonic weapons, but their extremely high inertia would make these missiles extremely

destructive even if they carried no warheads. Lockheed Martin a contract worth up to US$928

million to develop a conventional strike weapon capable of flying over five times the speed

of sound. The company's Lockheed Martin Space division in Huntsville, Alabama will carry

out the indefinite-delivery indefinite-quantity contract on the air-launched stand-off missile.

the Pentagon's top weapons supplier just got one step closer to handing hypersonic weapons

to the U.S. Air Force. John Snyder, Lockheed Martin vice president

of Air Force Strategic Programs, said in an emailed statement. "We are excited to get

to work on the hypersonic conventional strike weapon program,"

"This effort is one of two hypersonic weapon prototyping efforts being pursued by the US

Air Force to accelerate hypersonics research and development," says Air Force spokeswoman

Ann Stefanek in a statement. "The Air Force is using prototyping to explore the art-of-the-possible

and to advance these technologies to a capability as quickly as possible."

What's more, Lockheed Martin is in the process of developing the SR-72, a hypersonic unmanned

plane The SR-72 is envisioned to operate at speeds

up to Mach 6. And while the hypersonic SR-72 isn't expected to be operational until 2020,

the company sees developing a platform of that magnitude as a game changer.

Russia and China have already claimed to have not only created, but even deployed hypersonics,

though the credibility of this remains an open question. Nevertheless, the US Air Force

seems to be taking the threat of a new Moment to heart with the new contract that tasks

Lockheed with the design, development, engineering, systems integration, test, logistics planning,

and aircraft integration support of an American hypersonic stand-off missile beginning in

the 2018 fiscal year. The companys Huntsville, Ala.-based space

division. An Orlando-based team that will take advantage of the local teamsexpertise

in aircraft integrationalso will be involved, a spokeswoman said in an email.

The contract puts the company in the middle of a weapons race that has seen China and

Russia aggressively pursue hypersonic missiles. According to CNBC, Air Force Gen. John Hyten

told an armed services committee that the U.S. needed to develop the system as a deterrent

to other countries. “We dont have any defense that could

deny the employment of such a weapon against us,” he said in March.

The contract calls for the missiles design, development and testing, along with its integration

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