AFRL indicates intentions to select SDA for 'Mayhem' air-breathing hypersonics program 

By Briana Reilly / July 21, 2021 at 3:30 PM

The Air Force Research Laboratory is considering employing a Systems Design Agent to facilitate development of its recently launched air-breathing hypersonics program, called "Mayhem," according to a recent notice.

The request for information, released earlier this month, seeks industry sources to pursue research and development for a multimission flight vehicle, which would be capable of carrying larger payloads over further distances than allowed under current hypersonic capabilities. The system would also have a modular weapons bay that could deliver multiple payload options, per the notice.

AFRL states its goal is to design the system to allow rapid technology insertion and lowered technical barriers for entry, as well as opportunities for a variety of industry partners to contribute. A potential way to achieve those objectives, according to the notice, is through an SDA, which oversees designs, prototypes and tests to ultimately produce a technical data package.

That SDA would be responsible for delivering a vehicle system, which would include an airframe, propulsion system, booster, avionics and vehicle subsystems, per the RFI. The SDA would be barred from later competing for any follow-on prototype system, though sub-contractors to the SDA would not be.

Unveiled in August 2020, the air-breathing hypersonics program was the second such effort the service launched in a span of a few months. The other is the Future Hypersonics Program, for which the service has selected Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Technologies to develop a solid-rocket, scramjet-powered cruise missile. That missile could then be launched from fighter or bomber aircraft.

AFRL previously released an RFI for the program in August. That notice showed officials were considering a contracting structure with two indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity agreements, with one group focused on creating the propulsion system and another on designing the air vehicle. It also sought feedback on the use of other transaction agreements and more.