The Air Force has selected Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon to perform early work on the Future Hypersonics Program that seeks to develop a solid-rocket, air-breathing hypersonic cruise missile that can be launched from fighter or bomber aircraft.
The service plans to award contracts to the three companies in the first quarter of fiscal year 2021, according to a notice released Wednesday. These deals will include an initial effort that leads to a system requirements review and an option for a follow-on effort that leads to a preliminary design review -- all within just 15 months.
The service is using an "other than full and open competition" to partner with Boeing, Lockheed and Raytheon because they "are the only firms that possess the necessary capability within the Air Force's timeframe without causing an unacceptable delay in meeting the needs of the warfighter," the notice states.
Other vendors can submit a capability statement within the next two weeks for the Air Force to consider.
The Future Hypersonics Program diversifies the service's hypersonic capability research portfolio, which is currently limited to the Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon that aims to develop a boost-glide capability.
The service began market research to support the new cruise missile program in April with Air Force acquisition executive Will Roper telling reporters at the time that scramjet technology "has come a long way" and he's "exceptionally impressed" by new manufacturing techniques.
He said the program will leverage work at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, likely referring to the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept.