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 company’s Huntsville, Ala.-based space
division. An Orlando-based team that will take advantage of the local team’s “expertise
in aircraft integration” also 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 don’t have any defense that could
deny the employment of such a weapon against us,” he said in March.
The contract calls for the missile’s design, development and testing, along with its integration
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