March 5 (UPI) -- Raytheon was awarded a $63.3 million contract to further develop the Tactical Boost Glide hypersonic weapons program.
Raytheon announced the contract on Monday, revealing the work will be part of a joint development of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Air Force. The contract includes critical design review of the new missile system, a key step in fielding the technology.
The weapons are meant to meet the reported development of hypersonic weapons by other nations, specifically Russia and China.
The system allows for longer ranges with shorter response times and enhanced effectiveness compared with current military systems, according to DARPA. A tactical-range boost glide weapon achieves hypersonic speeds, or velocities five times greater than the speed of sound or Mach 5. The payload then separates from the rocket and glides unpowered to its destination.
"This latest contract adds to Raytheon's growing number of hypersonic weapons programs," Dr. Thomas Bussing, Raytheon Advanced Missile Systems vice president, said in a press release. "Raytheon is working closely with our customers to quickly field these advanced weapon systems and provide our nation's military with the tools they need to stay ahead of the escalating threat."
In 2016, Raytheon was awarded a $174 million contract for the United States for the hypersonic air-breathing weapon concept program.
Last November, DARPA released proposals for development of hypersonic missile propulsion systems, as well as for the development of missile defense systems called Glide Breaker, which is designed to intercept the hypersonic vehicles of other nations.
The Pentagon has said that developing countermeasures for hypersonic weapons is a key priority.
Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to deploy its Avangard scramjet hypersonic boost-glide missile mounted on a ICBM by 2020. Conventional or nuclear warheads could be mounted on the missile, he said.
"The most significant advance by our adversaries has been the Chinese development of what is now today a pretty mature system for conventional prompt strike at multi-thousand kilometer ranges," Defense Undersecretary Michael Griffin told the House Armed Services Committee during a hearing in April 2018. "We will, with today's defensive systems, not see these things coming."
Griffin proposed developing systems from the land and sea.
The United States has also been developing its own hypersonic missiles.
Last April, Lockheed Martin was awarded a $480 million contract to design a hypersonic missile prototype for the U.S. Air Force, called the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon. Another prototyping program is the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon, which is also under development by Lockheed Martin.