Raytheon, Northrop advance in competition to develop hypersonic weapons interceptor

WASHINGTON – Raytheon Technologies and Northrop Grumman have each won contracts to continue developing hypersonic weapons interceptors in a Missile Defense Agency-led competition, according to a June 24 Pentagon contract announcement.

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Each company was awarded a firm-fixed price modification to a previously awarded contract for rapid prototyping. Each modification is worth roughly $ 41.5 million, bringing the total contract value thus far to around $ 61 million each, according to the contract announcement.

In November 2021, the MDA chose the two companies along with Lockheed Martin to design the Glide Phase Interceptor (GPI) for regional hypersonic Missile defense. Through other transactional agreements, the companies entered an “accelerated concept design” phase.

The interceptors are meant to counter a hypersonic Weapon during its glide phase of flight, a challenge as the missiles can travel more than five times the speed of sound and can maneuver, making it hard to predict a missile’s trajectory.

The interceptors will be designed to fit into the US Navy’s current Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Destroyers. It will be fired from its standard Vertical Launch System and integrated with the modified Baseline 9 Aegis Weapon System that detects, tracks, controls and engages hypersonic threats.

While Lockheed was not awarded a contract to participate in the next phase of the GPI competition, it is competing against Raytheon to develop scramjet-powered hypersonic missiles as part of the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) program run by the Air Force and DARPA .

And Lockheed is the lead systems Integrator for what will be the Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike Offensive hypersonic Missile and the Army’s Long Range Hypersonic Weapon. Northrop Grumman designed the engine for both weapons.

Lockheed is also developing the Air Force’s hypersonic AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon.

MDA told Defense News in an email that the agency still has the ability to pull Lockheed back into the GPI effort later “if required.”

Northrop began the push to develop hypersonic Missile Capability in 2019 when the Pentagon made hypersonic Capability a priority. That same year, Lockheed Martin broke ground on a new facility in Alabama geared toward developing, testing and producing hypersonic weapons.

None of the companies immediately responded to requests for comment.

The MDA hit the pause button on its hypersonic weapons Interceptor effort in summer 2020 to bring a defensive hypersonic Weapon online. But the agency took steps this year to move forward again and received feedback from the industry confirming a glide phase Interceptor is something that can be done “and we shouldn’t be afraid to go do it,” Vice Adm. Jon Hill, MDA’s director, told Defense News last year.

About a year ago, the agency revamped its approach to hypersonic weapons, opting to focus on taking out hypersonic weapons in the glide phase of flight, where they are now vulnerable, according to Hill.

The agency will first focus on providing a Capability to the Navy. “If this is successful,” Hill said, “we can move it to the land-based battery to protect other things against that sort of hypersonic threat.”

The agency has yet to detail the program’s schedule for subsequent phases, but, according to fiscal 2023 Pentagon budget justification documents, the agency plans to reach the Weapon system and Missile systems preliminary design reviews in the fourth quarter of FY27.

Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering the land for Warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science in Journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts from Kenyon College.

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