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Raytheon/Northrop Grumman team selected for HACM hypersonic weapon

Raytheon released this computer rendering to illustrate its HACM concept. (Raytheon)

A team of Raytheon and Northrop Grumman has been selected by the US Air Force (USAF) to develop and prototype the service's scramjet-powered Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile (HACM).

Raytheon Missiles & Defense was awarded a USD985 million contract by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Armament Directorate on 22 September 2022, beating competition from Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The company's 54-month contract, which builds on work previously completed under the US/Australia Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment (SCIFiRE) bilateral project arrangement, covers HACM weapon system design, development, and initial delivery.

According to the USAF, HACM is a tactical hypersonic weapon, suitable for launch from fighter and bomber aircraft, that can strike high-value targets in contested environments from stand-off distances. It said it “plans to deliver a[n] HACM capability with operational utility by fiscal year (FY) 2027”.

Specific launch platforms for HACM have not been publicly identified. However, Air Force Chief of Staff General Charles Q Brown Jr said in a statement that HACM “will provide our commanders with tactical flexibility to employ fighters to hold high-value, time-sensitive targets at risk while maintaining bombers for other strategic targets”.

SCIFiRE, as the progenitor of HACM, was established by the US and Australia in 2020 to develop air-breathing hypersonic cruise missile prototypes. The USAF awarded three 15-month SCIFiRE contracts in June 2021 to Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon to complete preliminary designs of their hypersonic cruise missile concepts.

The HACM programme will ‘operationalise' the Raytheon SCIFiRE prototype for fighter aircraft integration and deliver two ‘leave-behind' prototype assets with operational utility, the USAF said. No details of the HACM weapon design or performance parameters have been released.

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