WASHINGTON — Lockheed Martin has selected Aerojet Rocketdyne to provide a solid-fuel rocket motor for a hypersonic missile meant for the U.S. Air Force, according to a Tuesday news release.

The $81.5 million contract award is to support Lockheed’s efforts in creating an air-launched, standoff missile that can reach Mach 5. The company was hired by the Air Force in April 2018 to design and prototype the hypersonic missile under the service’s Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon program.

Then in August 2018, the Air Force awarded another hypersonic missile development contract to Lockheed for the service’s Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon.

Eileen Drake, Aerojet’s CEO and president, noted in the release that the Pentagon considers hypersonic technology a top priority. “We look forward to leveraging and expanding those capabilities as an integral part of Lockheed Martin’s HCSW team,” she said.

Aerojet previously provided the scramjet engine for Boeing’s X-51A Waverider, created to demonstrate hypersonic flight.

Even as the United States works to develop its own hypersonic capabilities, it is also seeking to counter Russian and Chinese missile technology. The defense policy bill recently passed by Congress provided $108 million to the Missile Defense Agency for a space-based sensor array to focus on tracking hypersonic and ballistic missiles.

Chris Martin is the managing editor for Defense News. His interests include Sino-U.S. affairs, cybersecurity, foreign policy and his yorkie Willow.

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