The United States Air Force (USAF) has awarded Raytheon and Northrop Grumman a $985 million contract for scramjet-powered hypersonic cruise missiles.
The contract for the HACM (Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile) includes all the processes up until and including the delivery of operationally ready prototypes to the USAF.
“The Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile creates a new class of strategically important weapons for the U.S. military,” Mary Petryszyn, corporate vice president and president at Northrop Grumman Defense Systems is quoted in a Raytheon press release from September 23, 2022.
The project also includes the Australian military under the Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment (SCIFiRE) partnership program.
In 2021 under SCIFiRE, the USAF tasked Raytheon, Boeing and Lockheed Martin to come up with preliminary designs for a hypersonic cruise missile.
Now, the Raytheon design is going to be further developed and integrated for use on existing fighter aircraft, the USAF press release explains.
The release also reveals HACM is expected to reach operational capability by 2027.
HACM is one of many hypersonic missiles currently under development with the US military. In its 2023 budget, the US Department of Defense significantly increased the funding of various research and development programs, with hypersonic missile development being one of areas that was prioritized.
Hypersonic flight refers to flight at speeds of five times or more the speed of sound. “By traveling at these speeds, hypersonic weapons, like HACM, are able to reach their targets more quickly than similar traditional missiles, allowing them to potentially evade defensive systems,” Raytheon explained.