Lockheed Martin has won a contract from the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for the Operational Fires (OpFires) programme.

Valued at $31.9m, the contract will see the company support the OpFires integrated weapon system phase three programme.

The three-phase OpFires programme seeks to develop a ground-launching, mobile, integrated weapon system that makes use of DARPA-funded propulsion solutions and hypersonic boost-glide technology to precisely engage time-sensitive targets.

Lockheed Martin missiles and fire control, tactical and strike missiles advanced programmes director Hady Mourad said: “The OpFires missile is critical to providing the US Army with a highly manoeuvrable and rapid response solution capable of operating from unpredictable land-launch positions to suppress hostile threats.

“Lockheed Martin will deliver the prototype missiles utilising the experienced production teams that currently produce the ATACMS, GMLRS and PAC-3 missile systems in Camden, Arkansas.”

Around 68% of the work under the contract will be carried out in Grand Prairie, Texas, while the remainder will be performed in Huntsville in Alabama, Toledo in Ohio, Elkton in West Virginia, Kirkland in Washington and Camden in Arkansas.

The company is expected to complete its tasks in January 2021.

In late 2021, the phase three effort of the OpFires programme contract will move the design to the critical design review (CDR).

While the integrated flight testing will commence in 2022, the testing of components and subsystems will begin in 2021.

The first two phases of the OpFires programme focused on the propulsion technologies required to deliver various payloads for different ranges.

Under phase one effort, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Exquadrum, and Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) completed a total of over 30 motor trials.

Phase two of the programme will conclude with multiple hot / static fires, expected to be conducted this year.

A hypersonic weapon system is one of the key priorities of the US Department of Defense’s National Defense Strategy and Missile Defense Review.

The affordable and survivable weapon systems offer advantages in terms of speed, altitude, manoeuvrability, range, flexibility and precision.