The US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has awarded a $110m Phase I contract to Lockheed Martin to develop and demonstrate a new low-cost, subsonic cruise missile, Gray Wolf.

According to the AFRL requirements, the missiles will be designed to be able to feature networked, collaborative behaviours (swarming) that would help address integrated air defence (IAD) system threats across the globe.

The Gray Wolf missiles will be built using open architectures and modular design that would facilitate rapid prototyping and spiral growth capabilities.

The weapon design will also provide optimum mission flexibility to the USAF.

AFRL’s Gray Wolf programme comprises four spiral-development phases that would enable rapid technology prototyping and multiple transition opportunities.

Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control Advanced Missiles Programme director Hady Mourad said: “Lockheed Martin’s concept for the Gray Wolf missile will be an affordable, counter-IAD missile that will operate efficiently in highly contested environments.

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“Our system is being designed to maximise modularity, allowing our customer to incorporate advanced technologies.”

“Using the capabilities envisioned for later spirals, our system is being designed to maximise modularity, allowing our customer to incorporate advanced technologies such as more lethal warheads or more fuel-efficient engines when those systems become available.”

The first phase of the programme will be carried out under an indefinite delivery / indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract.

Slated to continue for five years, the Phase I of the project is expected to run until late 2019.

Initial demonstrations of Gray Wolf will be conducted from the USAF’s F-16 fighter aircraft.

In addition, the missile system will be designed for compatibility with the F-35, F-15, F-18, B-1, B-2, and B-52 aircraft.