The U.S. Air Force has awarded a second contract not to exceed $480 million to Lockheed Martin Missiles & Fire Control to develop a hypersonic weapon prototype that would travel five times faster than the speed of sound to overcome Russian and Chinese missile defense systems.
The contract will cover the critical design review, test, and production readiness support for the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), according to a US Air Force statement.
“We are going to go fast and leverage the best technology available to get hypersonic capability to the warfighter as soon as possible,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather A. Wilson.
The AARW program now consists of two hypersonic weapon prototyping efforts administered by the Air Force to expedite hypersonic research and development. Lockheed was awarded the first $929 million contract back on April 18, which was for the design and manufacture of the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW), a new air-launched weapon system.
Officials from the Defense Department, Missile Defense Agency, Air Force, Navy, and Army signed a memorandum June 28 to work jointly on the development of “hypersonic boost-glide” technology, the release said.
“The Joint Team requires the right mix of agile capabilities to compete, deter and win across the spectrum of competition and conflict,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “We must push the boundaries of technology and own the high ground in this era of great power competition and beyond.”
“The ARRW effort is ‘pushing the art-of-the-possible’ by leveraging the technical base established by the Air Force/[Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] partnership,” the release said. “The HCSW effort is using mature technologies that have not been integrated for an air-launched delivery system.”
The Air Force said the second contract remains as an undefinitized contract to allow Lockheed to begin work immediately. The final price and negotiated terms will be agreed upon later this year, it said.
The second contract indicates that Pentagon officials understand American exceptionalism is dying, while rivals Russia and China have created far superior hypersonic national programs.
“We have lost our technical advantage in hypersonics; we haven’t lost the hypersonics fight,” Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Air Force Gen. Paul Selva told reporters in January. “China has made it a national program, so China’s willing to spend tens to up to hundreds of billions to solve the problem of hypersonic flight, hypersonic target designation, and then ultimately engagement.”
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.”
“I think we have stability with Russia on the nuclear side,” he added. “We have an advantage with China on the nuclear side. But they are gaining ground quickly, especially when you look at space and cyber.”
Earlier this year, we reported that Russia test-fired a high-precision Kinzhal (Dagger) hypersonic missile from a MiG-31 supersonic interceptor jet in the South Military District in Russia’s southwest.
“The launch went according to plan, the hypersonic missile hit its target,” the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation declared.
The defense ministry released exclusive video showing the hypersonic missile air launch from the underbelly of the MiG-31.
Экипаж истребителя МиГ-31 Воздушно-космических сил #ВКС выполнил практический учебно-боевой пуск гиперзвуковой ракеты высокоточного авиационного ракетного комплекса #Кинжал в заданном районе. Пуск прошел штатно, гиперзвуковая ракета поразила заданную цель на полигоне pic.twitter.com/xLguUwGrQW
— Минобороны России (@mod_russia) March 10, 2018
In late 2017, China conducted several tests of a hypersonic glide vehicle that could be used to defeat U.S. missile defense systems.
China just showed its hypersonic-BGV in a vid on 08 Oct. Probably a test design model, but AFAIK this is first pics of an actual object 1/ pic.twitter.com/EXIMHkXTEA
— Raymond Wang (@soraywang) November 5, 2017
Earlier this month, China claimed to have successfully tested a new hypersonic missile that would be capable of penetrating any missile defense system in the world. The Starry Sky-2, which is an experimental design known as “waverider,” rides the shock waves generated during flight. The missile could one day carry conventional and or nuclear warheads undetected through US missile defense shields.
#China has successfully tested its new aircraft, the Starry Sky-2, which can even be used to carry nuclear missiles at a speed never seen before. Recently China & #Russia showed the world their new toys. For whom they display it? What intention is behind that? #defense #Military pic.twitter.com/XqA2AsleZn
— Cristina Font 柯伊娜 (@cfontharo) August 7, 2018
The arms race in hypersonic weapons has ushered in the next Cold War between the US, Russia, and China. It is a repeating war cycle of madness where billions of dollars are being diverted to the military-industrial-complex. So, it is no surprise that Lockheed Martin has been awarded nearly $1.5 billion in the span of a few months to develop and field hypersonic missiles for the Air Force.
Hypersonics will not make the world safer, but more dangerous with global superpowers having the capabilities of hurling projectiles at March five or higher. The 53.7 Year War Cycle is telling us something, perhaps, war is nearing.