US taps defence giants for protection against hypersonic missile attacks

The US Navy conducts a static fire test of the first stage of the newly developed hypersonic missile in this handout image taken on Oct 28, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - United States defence giants Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman have been awarded contracts to develop missiles that could protect the country from hypersonic attacks, the Pentagon announced on Friday (Nov 20).

Hypersonic missiles, like traditional ballistic missiles, can fly more than five times the speed of sound (Mach 5).

But they are more manoeuvrable than their ballistic counterparts and can trace a low trajectory in the atmosphere, making them harder to defend against.

The three contracts were awarded for the development of glide phase interceptors and together are worth more than US$60 million (S$82 million), the Pentagon said.

In October the US successfully tested hypersonic missile technology, which is already being deployed by China and Russia.

The Pentagon recently confirmed that China in August carried out a test of a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile that would be difficult to defend against, and has said that Beijing is expanding its arsenal more quickly than anticipated.

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