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USAF awards SCIFiRE hypersonic missile contract to Raytheon, Northrop Grumman team

The US Air Force has awarded Raytheon Missiles and Defense a US$985,348,124 contract to develop and demonstrate Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile (HACM) prototypes, under a multi-year bilateral program with Australia. The award underscores the U.S. Air Force’s focus on increasing interoperability with allies and partners to stay ahead of strategic competitors.

HACM is an air-launched, scramjet-powered hypersonic weapon designed to hold high-value targets at risk in contested environments from standoff distances. In 2020, the USAF established a multi-year, bilateral project arrangement with Australia known as the Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment (SCIFiRE) to develop air-breathing hypersonic cruise missile prototypes. The Air Force awarded three 15-month SCIFiRE contracts in June 2021 to Boeing, Lockheed Martin and a Raytheon-Northrop Grumman team to complete preliminary designs of a hypersonic cruise missile.

The HACM program will now operationalize the Raytheon SCIFiRE prototype design, which uses a scramjet engine developed by Northrop Grumman, for fighter aircraft integration and deliver two leave-behind assets with operational utility. The two companies have been working together since 2019 n hypersonic missiles.
Air Vice Marshal Robert Denney, AM, the RAAF Head of Air Force Capability, said SCIFiRE is providing an opportunity to understand and influence the future of hypersonic weapons development and acquisition.
“SCIFiRE demonstrates our commitment with the U.S. to strengthen capability outcomes, deepen our alliance and strengthen our cooperation as we meet emerging challenges and support regional endeavours.”
“HACM is a powerful example of developing and integrating combat capabilities alongside our partners from the beginning,” said USAF Chief of Staff GEN CQ Brown. “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.”

Scramjet engines use high vehicle speed to forcibly compress incoming air before combustion, which enables sustained flight at hypersonic speeds – Mach 5 or greater. By traveling at these speeds, hypersonic weapons, like HACM, are able to reach their targets more quickly than similar traditional missiles, allowing them to potentially evade defensive systems.

“The HACM creates a new class of strategically important weapons for the U.S. military,” said Mary Petryszyn, corporate vice president and president, Northrop Grumman Defense Systems. “Our scramjet propulsion technology is ushering in a new era for faster, more survivable and highly capable weapons.”
Through the SCIFiRE agreement, the U.S. and Australia will continue collaborating on HACM design and development, including using Australian test infrastructure for the initial all-up-round flight tests.
The USAF  plans to deliver a HACM capability with operational utility by fiscal year 2027.

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