The U.S. Air Force today awarded Lockheed Martin [LMT] a potential $480 million contract to design a second hypersonic weapon prototype.

The contract will provide the critical design review, test and production readiness support for the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) program. The “undefinitized” contract action authorizes Lockheed to begin work before the government reaches a final settlement on contract terms and conditions, to include a final negotiated price, the Air Force said in an emailed statement. The contract is expected to be definitized within 180 days.Lockheed-martin-logo

Work will be performed in Orlando, Fla., and is expected to be completed by Nov. 30, 2021. The Air Force obligated $5 million in fiscal year 2018 research, development, test and evaluation funds at the time of award.

The ARRW effort is one of two hypersonic weapon prototyping efforts being pursued by the Air Force to accelerate hypersonics research and development. The service also picked Lockheed Martin to develop and test the air-launched Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW) prototype (Defense Daily, April 18). The company was one of three bidders for the multi-year contract, which has a value of up to $928 million.

The ARRW and HCSW efforts incorporate different technical approaches, according to the Air Force statement. The ARRW effort is “pushing the art-of-the-possible” by leveraging the technical base established by the Air Force/Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency partnership, while “the HCSW effort is using mature technologies that have not been integrated for an air-launched delivery system.”

Program management for both programs is led by the Armament Directorate of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

Lockheed Martin declined to provide specifics on either program, but said via an emailed statement that the company continues to invest in both hypersonic strike capabilities, as well as defense systems against emerging hypersonic threats.

The contract awards come as the Defense Department is working to keep ahead of potential adversaries in the hypersonics domain. On June 28, leaders from the Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency, Air Force, Navy and Army signed a memorandum of agreement to work cooperatively on hypersonic boost glide technology development.