US defence prime Northrop Grumman has been awarded a $705m contract by the US Air Force to develop the Stand-in Attack Weapon (SiAW), a high-speed air-to-ground weapon that could equip current fifth- and future sixth-generation combat aircraft.

The SiAW project is a significant milestone, aligning with the USAF vision for a digital weapons acquisition and development programme. Over the next 36 months, Northrop Grumman will work to refine the SiAW, integrate it into various platforms, and undertake a flight test programme for rapid prototyping.

The company will develop at its Northridge, California facility and the Allegany Ballistics Laboratory in West Virginia.

According to GlobalData’s “The Global Missiles & Missile Defense Systems Market 2023-2033” report, the third leading supplier in the North American region will be Northrop Grumman, which is set to hold a 19.7% share over 2023–33.

Susan Bruce, vice president of advanced weapons at Northrop Grumman, highlighted the SiAW’s significance, stating: “Northrop Grumman’s SiAW delivers on the [US] Air Force’s desire for its first digital weapons acquisition and development programme. With our expert digital engineering capabilities, this next-generation missile represents an adaptable, affordable way for the Department of Defense to buy and modernise weapons.”

The air-to-ground SiAW is designed to tackle relocatable targets within enemy anti-access/area denial environments, and will be developed with open architecture to enable spiral upgrades in the future.

The SiAW project’s Phase 2 development is a step forward in the programme, focussed on digital engineering, weapon open system architecture, and agility. The US Air Force is working toward achieving an initial operational capability by 2026. 

Phase 2 comprises two primary increments: Phase 2.1 concludes with a guided vehicle flight test, while Phase 2.2 includes three additional flight tests and the delivery of SiAW leave-behind prototype missiles and test assets.

In June 2022, Airforce Technology reported that the missile design presented by Northrop Grumman for evaluation fulfilled the requirements for the Stand-in Attack weapon development and other USAF programmes.