In recent months, it has become increasingly clear that the United States has fallen behind in the emerging technology realm of hypersonic missiles. These new platforms, capable of sustained speeds in excess of Mach 5, are already making their way into the arsenals of the Russian and Chinese militaries, with the United States recently projected to be at least two years behind. However, what the U.S. appears to have lacked in foresight when it comes to disruptive technologies, it hopes to make up for with funding — with nearly $1.5 billion allocated to Lockheed Martin in the past few months to expedite the development of two American hypersonic missile platforms.
There are other American hypersonic programs in development as well, including a hypersonic glider under development at DARPA (with some technology cross over between that and one of Lockheed’s programs) and the general assumption the the Navy’s classified submarine launched anti-ship missile that was leaked recently by Chinese hackers may also be able to attain hypersonic velocities. However, these four programs (and whatever others may remain hidden behind classified lines of accounting) don’t seem to be enough to ease concerns that the United States now finds itself playing catch up regarding a technology that could feasibly change the voice of warfare. Those concerns seem to permeate throughout the Pentagon, as the Air Force released yet another hypersonic contract announcement early this week that seems to suggest the United States is in the market for just about any new program that might give them an edge in this race America has been dangerously slow to enter.
The posting reads:
The Department of Defense, United States Air Force (USAF), Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC), Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC), Armament Directorate, is currently conducting market research on hypersonic weapon rapid development, production, and sustainment. AFLCMC/EB is considering the viability of a multiple award Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity contract vehicle.