Raytheon Missiles & Defense has been awarded a nearly $1-billion contract to produce and demonstrate the US Air Force’s Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile (HACM).

The company edged out fellow American firms Lockheed Martin and Boeing to advance to the prototyping phase of the hypersonic missile program.

The award reportedly puts Raytheon well ahead of its rivals to become the lead developer of strategic weapons.

According to the US Department of Defense, the company will be tasked with weapon system design, manufacturing, initial delivery, integration, and testing.

Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Raytheon won initial HACM design contracts in 2021, with the US Air Force selecting Raytheon to advance to the next phase of development.

“Raytheon Missiles & Defense continues to be at the forefront of hypersonic weapon and air-breathing technology development,” Raytheon President Wes Kremer said.

“With advanced threats emerging around the globe, the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile will provide our warfighters a much-needed capability.”

‘Strategically Important Weapon’

The HACM is an air-breathing, scramjet-powered munition designed to target high-value assets in contested environments.

It can travel in the upper atmosphere at 6,200 kilometers (3,853 miles) per hour or more than five times the speed of sound.

With its hypersonic speed, the weapon system can evade air defense systems and reach targets more quickly than traditional missiles.

“The Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile creates a new class of strategically important weapons for the US military,” an official from Northrop Grumman, Raytheon partner in the program, explained.

“Our scramjet propulsion technology is ushering in a new era for faster, more survivable and highly capable weapons.”

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Work for the contract will be performed in Arizona and is expected to be completed by 2027.