Aerospace company Hermeus has signed a $60m partnership agreement with US Air Force (USAF) for flight testing its first autonomous high-speed aircraft ‘Quarterhorse’.

Quarterhorse will validate the aerospace company’s turbine-based combined cycle (TBCC) engine, which is based on the GE J85 turbojet engine.

After the completion of the flight test programme, Quarterhorse will become the world’s fastest reusable aircraft and the first-of-its-kind to fly with a TBCC engine, claimed the company.

The award is a follow-on to a Phase II SBIR contract and was made under the AFWERX Strategic Funding Increase (STRATFI) programme.

The partnership also includes support from the USAF’s Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).

Vector Initiative programme manager lieutenant colonel Joshua Burger, who is spearheading the latest effort, said that the USAF recognised the small business partnership as a key component in driving innovation.

Burger said: “Reducing risk in high-speed transport technologies, as we are doing with this contract, provides near-term and long-term benefits to both the US Air Force and the defence industrial base.”

In a separate development, Alion Science and Technology won a $25m task order to provide munitions advanced technology analysis, assessments, and strategic planning for the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (OUSD(R&E)).

Under the task order, Alion will perform a wide range of assessments and conduct strategic planning to advance the development of joint munitions advanced technology.

The order has a 60-month period of performance and is valued at $25m.

It was awarded under the US Department of Defense Information Analysis Center’s (DoD IAC) multiple-award contract (MAC) vehicle.