Lockheed Martin, the defense company behind F-35A Lightning II, a fifth-generation combat aircraft, won a $928 million contract April 18 to develop a hypersonic missile for the U.S. Air Force that will travel more than five times faster than the speed of sound to overcome Russian and Chinese missile defense systems.
According to Lockheed Martin, under the indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract, the company will design and manufacture the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW), a new air-launched weapon system. The missile will be capable of speeds higher than Mach five and could render Russian and Chinese ballistic missile defense interceptors useless.
Lockheed Martin will be strategically working with the U.S. Air Force to “finalize system requirements under the contract’s initial task order,” the press release stated.
“This is the first phase of a development program, with future phases progressing through design, flight test, initial production and deployment of the weapon system at early operational capability. The contract ceiling through early operational capability is $928 million.”
“Our goal is rapid development and fielding of the HCSW system, and this contract is the first step in achieving that goal,” said John Snyder, vice president of Air Force Strategic Programs at Lockheed Martin.
He added, “design, development, production, integration and test experts from across Lockheed Martin will partner with the Air Force to achieve early operational capability and deliver the system to our warfighters. We are incredibly proud to be leading this effort.”
The HCSW team will work on the hypersonic missile program at numerous locations in the U.S., including in Huntsville, Alabama; Valley Forge, Pennsylvania; and Orlando, Florida; with additional support in Denver, Colorado, and Sunnyvale, California.
Lockheed Martin has the most experince when it comes to developing and testing hypersonic weapons and vehicles than any other U.S. defense company. On an international stage, U.S. defense companies are severely behind the technology curve when it comes to developing and fielding these powerful weapons for the modern battlefield.
In March, the United States Strategic Commander told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the U.S. is vulnerable to future attack via hypersonic missiles and is quickly falling behind the technological curve for hypersonics.
“We [U.S.] don’t have any defense that could deny the employment of such a weapon [hypersonic missiles] against us,” warned Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command.
Hyten further said, “both Russia and China are aggressively pursuing hypersonic capabilities. We have watched them test those capabilities.”