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UK DE&S to award contracts on £1 billion hypersonic missile framework

The UK’s development of a sovereign hypersonic strike capability is taking a substantial leap forward, says the country’s Ministry of Defence, with a new agreement to facilitate collaboration on hypersonic technology.

Ninety organisations from across industry and academia have secured a place on a £1 billion ($1.89 billion) transformational Hypersonic Technologies & Capability Development Framework (HTCDF) agreement set up to rapidly develop advanced hypersonic missile capabilities for the UK.

The organisations accepted onto the eight-lot Framework, which is led by MOD’s Team Hypersonics (UK), will now be eligible to bid for contracts; the maximum value of the Framework across the next seven years is up to £1 billion.

The award of contracts on the Framework will be managed by commercial experts at DE&S.

Project delivery has been designed with pace in mind, with the Framework adopting mechanisms which align procurement and development objectives, preventing the traditional challenges that impede capability acquisition, says the UK MoD. The approach to developing an agile route to market is part of a broader drive across MOD to increase the speed of defence procurement.

“We had a fantastic response from those wanting to be part of what is an iconic national endeavour,” said Team Hypersonics (UK) Programme Director Paul Wilson. “In an unsettled world, the battlespace is continually evolving, and the UK MOD recognises the need for agility to ensure we can rapidly develop and deliver the capabilities our Armed Forces need to protect our interests and those of our allies.”

The announcement follows the Prime Minister’s statement setting out plans to spend 2.5% of GDP on defence by 2030 which will see an additional £75 billion ($142 bilion) spent over the next six years, the biggest strengthening of the UK’s national defence in a generation.

The Framework was announced late last year after the UK Government indicated its intent to accelerate the development of a sovereign UK Hypersonic Strike Capability, whilst bolstering AUKUS collaboration with Australia and the United States. Hypersonic and counter-hypersonic capabilities represent one of six advanced capabilities identified as priorities under AUKUS Pillar 2.

The HTCDF has been designed to provide a responsive, agile route to market to facilitate capability realisation at pace, says the UK MoD. Uniquely it will be used to select suppliers to deliver services and supplies to support the research, development and testing of hypersonic technologies right through to a capability.

Intrinsically linked with MOD’s ambition to transform acquisition, the Framework enables focussed research to be spirally developed through varying Technical Readiness Levels (TRLs) onwards to a capability. The maturity of the services and supplies provided under the resulting Call Off contracts will be TRL 1 – 9.

Alongside established weapons manufacturers and academic institutions, nearly half of the suppliers will be Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), the vast majority of which are based in the UK. This diverse supply base will enable MOD to leverage the strength and breadth of UK and international talent and innovation across the defence enterprise.

“Hypersonics will be a landmark capability of the future and it is essential we keep pace with the developments of our adversaries,” said Minister for Defence Procurement, James Cartlidge. “The Framework sends a clear demand signal to UK industry of our intention to develop hypersonics, which is critical for the nearly 50% of the suppliers which will be SMEs.”

The HTCDF will also re-open to new suppliers every 6 to 12 months to ensure that MOD can continue to draw upon new technologies and emerging market capabilities. Opportunities to join the Framework will be advertised on the UK MOD Defence Sourcing Portal (DSP).

IMAGE: Hypersonic missile. Crown Copyright

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