The contract, worth $63.3 million, is part of an Air Force effort and includes a critical design review, according to a March 5 press release from Raytheon.
The weapon will use a rocket to get to hypersonic speed — in excess of Mach 5, or nearly 4,000 miles per hour — where the payload will separate and glide unpowered the rest of the way to the target. The system can be maneuvered in flight but will no longer accelerate.
The Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon will "push the art of the possible" when it comes to hypersonic tech.
According to DARPA’s website, the tactical boost glide program is a two-stage program that includes both ground and flight testing.
The goal of the project is to develop a vehicle that is effective, controllable and affordable.
At the Pentagon, concern has grown in recent years about the pace of China and Russia’s development of hypersonic weapons. Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, told a group of reporters in 2017 that while China and Russia have pulled ahead, the United States wasn’t out of the game yet.
“We have lost our technical advantage in hypersonics,” Selva told the Defense Writers Group. “We haven’t lost the hypersonics fight.”