The Pentagon’s missile defense agency has hired contractors Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin to develop a defense system that can intercept hypersonic missiles, officials said Friday.
Companies will complete “an accelerated conceptual design” of a sliding phase interceptor capable of tracking and targeting hypersonic missiles on their way to their target. The interceptors are to be integrated into the existing Aegis defense system for ballistic missiles of the Pentagon.
“Raytheon Technologies systems are the cornerstone of today’s ballistic missile defense. We are building on this knowledge to evolve the missile defense system for future threats, ”said Tay Fitzgerald, vice president of strategic missile defense at Raytheon. “The speed, ability to withstand extreme heat, and maneuverability of the GPI will make it the first missile designed to counter this advanced threat.”
No further details on the contract were released, but Reuters reported that the companies received separate contracts totaling $ 60 million.
Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“Multiple awards allow us to conduct a risk mitigation phase to explore industry concepts and maximize the benefits of a competitive environment in order to demonstrate the most effective and reliable glide phase interceptor for regional hypersonic defense as soon as possible,” said Rear Adm. Tom Druggan, MDA’s program director for sea-based weapons systems.
The contracts were announced amid growing competition between the US, China and Russia in the development of hypersonic missiles. The missiles fly five times faster than sound and can maneuver on the way to their target.
In August, China conducted a test that fired a hypersonic missile into space and orbited the earth before sliding towards its target, the Financial Times reported.
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General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed that the test took place in October and described the situation as “very worrying”.
“I think I saw in some newspapers that they were using the term Sputnik moment,” Milley said during an appearance on Bloomberg Television. “I don’t know if it’s a Sputnik moment, but I think it’s very close. So it’s a very significant technological event, or a test that was done by the Chinese. And it’s got all of our attention. “