The US Air Force (USAF) has awarded a contract to Raytheon Missiles & Defense and Northrop Grumman team for the first hypersonic attack cruise missile (HACM).

The $985.34m cost-plus-fixed-fee contract also includes performance incentives and an associated task order.

According to the US Department of Defense’s (DoD) contract announcement, the task order will cover HACM’s design, development and initial delivery.

It will be based on the companies’ performance in different stages, including HACM’s critical design review, qualification, integration, manufacturing and evaluation.

Related work will be carried out at Raytheon’s site in Arizona, US. It is slated to complete by March 2027.

The new weapon system is being developed as part of a multi-year project arrangement between the US and Australia.

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Also called the Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment (SCIFiRE), the two countries entered this agreement in 2020 to develop HACM prototypes.

Under SCIFiRE, the USAF awarded a 15-month HACM preliminary design contract to Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Technologies.

With a selection of the Raytheon SCIFiRE prototype design, the HACM programme will now operationalise this concept for integration with a fighter aircraft to deliver two leave-behind assets with operational utility.

Australia will also provide test infrastructure for HACM’s initial all-up-round flight tests, as its contribution to the SCIFiRE agreement.

USAF chief of staff general CQ Brown Jr said: “HACM will provide our commanders with tactical flexibility to employ fighters to hold high-value, time-sensitive targets at risk while maintaining bombers for other strategic targets.”

HACM, an air-launched, scramjet-powered hypersonic munition, is being developed to hold long-range, high-value targets in highly contested scenarios.

The development of HACM will allow the USAF to enhance interoperability with allies and partner nations and stay ahead of strategic competitors.