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US Navy awards contracts for experimental hypersonic, carrier-based weapon

The US Navy has awarded contracts worth US$116 million (AUD$175 million) to Raytheon Missiles and Defense and Lockheed Martin for the initial development of a carrier-suitable long range, high-speed missile designated Hypersonic Air Launched Offensive Anti-Surface (HALO).

The contract award is the first step to fielding a critical capability over the next decade that will address advanced threats and allow the Navy to operate in and control contested battle space in littoral waters and anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) environments.

The initial contracts to Raytheon and Lockheed Martin will provide technical maturation and development through preliminary design review of the propulsion system required for a carrier suitable hypersonic weapon system.  The contract period of performance for each award will end in December 2024 with each company’s preliminary design review working towards a prototype flight test.

HALO will be a carrier-based, high-speed, long-range air-launched weapon that will provide greater anti-surface warfare capability than what’s available today.

“As threat capability continues to advance, additional range, warfare capability and capacity is required to address the more demanding threat environment,” said Capt. Richard Gensley, Precision Strike Weapons (PMA-201) program manager.

The program is part of the US Navy’s Long Range Fires investment approach to meet objectives of the National Defense Strategy where hypersonic weapons are a top priority, he said.

“Our team is leveraging science and technology and rapid prototyping arenas to support aggressive schedule execution,” said Gensley.

These contracts are the first of potentially additional development and production contracts based on initial designs and supplier performance that will inform Navy leadership on future program decisions.

HALO’s predecessor, the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), is currently fielded on the Navy’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and Air Force B-1B and has been ordered by the RAAF to arm its own F/A-18Fs.  To bridge the gap until HALO is operational, the US Navy recently funded an upgrade to the LRASM which will incorporate missile hardware and software improvements to enhance targeting capabilities.

The Navy plans to pursue a competitive acquisition strategy leveraging LRASM requirements and concept of operations to meet future maritime threats beyond mid-2020s. Initial operational capability for HALO is planned for late this decade.

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