At least three industry bidders have confirmed plans to compete for small technology contracts. The work could eventually generate the next major US missile development programme.
The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has invited proposals in the form of white papers for a five-year contract called the joint dual-role air dominance missile technology development (JDRADM-TD) phase.
The programme seeks to develop a longer-distance replacement for Raytheon's medium-range AIM-120 AMRAAM for use against airborne threats. It would also be uniquely designed to function as a ground radar killer, potentially replacing the company's AGM-88 high-speed anti-radiation missile (HARM).
As the maker of both current weapon systems, Raytheon confirms it is "considering a variety of technologies" that could meet the AFRL's call for a dual-role missile with improved kinematic performance.
Alliant Techsystems, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman formed an alliance last year to pursue dual-role missile technology, but in July declined to specify the JDRADM contract as a business opportunity. However, Lockheed now confirms that the group will submit a white paper in response to the AFRL's invitation.
Boeing also confirms plans to submit a proposal for the JDRADM-TD contract. Since 2006, the company has captured three AFRL awards related to the JDRADM programme, with separate studies to mature the technology for the seeker, warhead and missile.
The new AFRL contracts could force the industry teams to consolidate or face elimination, as only two bidding teams will be selected to complete the 38-month demonstration phase. If funding becomes available, the contract could be extended to 60 months.