Three US defence contractors are teaming up in a bid to beat Boeing and Raytheon to design the next premier air-launched missile.

Alliant Techsystems (ATK), Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman will jointly pursue development of a dual-role weapon that can replace both the Raytheon AIM-120 advanced medium range air-to-air missile (AMRAAM) and the AGM-88 high-speed anti-radiation missile (HARM).

The precise role of the new team members is currently undecided but ATK’s background is propulsion and integration, while Lockheed and Northrop bring sensor, airframe and integration skills to the team.

“The formal structure isn’t so formal right now,” says RD (Ron) Abbott, executive vice president for Lockheed’s Missiles and Fire Control division.

The new team is likely to eventually compete for an emerging USAF acquisition programme called the dual-role air dominance missile (DRADM).

Last year, both Lockheed and Raytheon lost an early technology development contract preceding the DRADM competition. Instead, the USAF awarded the contract to Boeing, which has leveraged its background in missile defence and air-to-ground weapons.

Although the ATK/Lockheed/Northrop team has no formal leader, the announcement was staged at the Lockheed chalet at the Farnborough Air Show. Abbott was joined on stage by Jack Cronin, president of ATK Mission Systems and Jim Pitts, president of Northrop’s Electronic Systems division.

Asked directly about the team’s intentions on DRADM, all three executives declined to name the programme specifically as a potential target. 

Raytheon, meanwhile, declined to comment directly, but gave no hint that it will simply cede its monopoly on the AMRAAM and HARM market to the new competitors.

“Raytheon has been an innovator in this space for decades and will continue to be so for decades to come,” the company says.

Source: Flight International