The Two USAF Hypersonic Programmes Awarded to Lockheed Martin

WASHINGTON, the USA (BulgarianMilitary.com), 9 August 2018, Editor: Stanislava Georgieva, Photo credit: U.S. Air Force photo/Chad Bellay

In a response to the recent China and Russia breakthroughs in extremely high-speed weapons and exactly the surprising developments in hypersonic weapons, the U.S. Air Forces launches two programs for the rapid development and fielding of two hypersonic missiles. Newly-released documents for acquisition, point out that Lockheed Martin is the contractor for the new programmes, learned BulgarianMilitary.com.

Both programmes were revealed while the Department of Defense of U.S. has decided to take part in the competition and to respond to the hypersonic testing by China and Russia since 2016. Most recent of them was reported on 5 August by state media, broadcasting that a hypersonic wave rider vehicle, similar to Boeing X-51, successfully completed a test, at the end of the last week, in northwestern China. And previously this year Russian president, Vladimir Putin displayed the Kinzhal (“Dagger”) missile, which upon launch from a MiG-31 is capable of hypersonic speed.

Read more: General: The USA Has No Defences Against the Weapons of Russia and China

Since April, this year, it is known that Lockheed’s Missiles and Space company has been awarded a potential $928 million contract for the programme for developing the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW). But according to newly-release documents, it becomes clear that in July 2017, the UASF selected Lockheed’s Missiles and Fire Control division for another separate programme, which is for the quick development and fielding of the Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW).

The ARRW, known as AGM-183A, comes from the Tactical Boost Glide (TBG) programme, that Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) started in 2014. ARRW operates by using a rocket to boost the missile to very high altitudes, and then glides down to lower altitudes, reaching speed up to Mach 20.

Read more: Russia May Boast with at Least Six Super Weapons

Since the original deal was structured as an extension to a DARPA contract for TBG programme, the USAF decided to restructure the terms of the contract by proceeding in the service’s own acquisition. Although the $780 million ARRW contract was awarded to Lockheed more than a year ago, this summer the USAF was forced to open the competition again and reconsidered the other two bidders – Boeing and Raytheon – that previously had been disqualified under the DARPA programme. Although their previous disqualification, both companies responded to the USAF’s latest call for information in July.

Read more: Lockheed Martin’s Last Upgraded C-5 Delivered to US Air Force

But none of the proposals met the USAF’s requirements for ARRW, except Lockheed’s concept. Boeing was dismissed for adding too much risk, according to USAF, by the offered different propulsion systems for development and production versions of the weapon. And the presented hypersonic design by them, rather flew a ballistic re-entry trajectory, than a boost-glide trajectory as required. And the proposal of Raytheon Missile Systems was criticized by USAF for the lack of details about the required efforts to field a flight-qualified weapon, though the compliant boost-glide concept they offered.

Lockheed’s proposal was considered far more detailed and compatible with the ARRW requirement, according to the U.S. Air Forces. They also pointed out that one of Lockheed’s advantages is their work with suppliers in order to be prepared to meet the “required production rate at 36 months after contract award.”

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Air ForceHypersonic weaponLockheed MartinUSAUSAF