The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded Raytheon [RTN] a contract to further develop the tactical boost glide (TBG) hypersonic weapon, a joint DARPA/Air Force effort, the company said March 5.

Raytheon has been partnering with DARPA and the Air Force Research Laboratory for several years on TBG, a flight demonstration program that involves a rocket lifting its payload at high speeds into the atmosphere, then releasing the glide vehicle to reach Mach 5 speeds or higher upon descent.

Image: Raytheon

The new contract, worth over $63 million, will include a critical design review. A further timeline projection was not provided, but previous reports have indicated DARPA plans to field a system in the 2022-2023 timeframe.

“This latest contract adds to Raytheon’s growing number of hypersonic weapons programs,” said Thomas Bussing, Raytheon Advanced Missile Systems vice president in a Tuesday 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.”

The TBG program plans to focus on three primary objectives, according to DARPA: vehicle feasibility, meaning vehicle concepts “possessing the required aerodynamic and aerothermal performance, controllability and robustness for a wide operational envelope;” effectiveness, or developing the system attributes and subsystems that would make the weapon effective in operational environments; and affordability efforts to reduce cost and increase value for the current demonstration system as well as future operational systems.

The Air Force is pursuing several hypersonic weapon efforts, including two programs awarded to Lockheed Martin [LMT] in 2018 to eventually field a new weapon that could ride on aircraft just as the B-52H nuclear-capable bomber. Will Roper, the service’s assistant secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, told reporters in February that he anticipates fielding the first of those efforts, the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW), by the end of 2020, with the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) potentially coming online six months later (Defense Daily, Feb. 8).