U.S. defense contractor Northrop Grumman has been selected to develop a space-borne defense system to track hypersonic weapons as the country looks to stay ahead in the race for the new class of weapons which would eventually phase out conventional weaponry. The deal assumes significance in the face of technological advances made by countries such as Russia and China in the development of hypersonic weapons.

The terms of the contract were not revealed, but Defense Blog indicated that Northrop will be working on the next phase of the project over the next year. This is an economic win in a tight market.

Very few details of the system are available, but we know that it will be purely defensive in nature. Don’t expect lasers to come flashing out of space and destroy these weapons, yet.

Current U.S. monitoring satellites are not capable of tracking and developing telemetry for incoming hypersonic weapons accurately. This creates a huge problem when it comes to defending against such threats, many of which travel at over Mach five, which means five times the speed of sound.

Northrop Grumman logo on one of it unmanned aircraft
The corporate logo of Northrop Grumman is shown on a Fire Scout MQ-8 B unmanned helicopter during a ceremony at Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado, California, May 2, 2013. Reuters/Mike Blake

The U.S. military has openly discussed developing such weaponry. Lockheed Martin was recently awarded a contract for just under $1 billion to continue develop the ARRW, which is being retrofitted to be able to fire out of a B-52 Stratofortress. Hypersonic weapons are lightweight and fast and they pack a considerable punch. Being able to defend against them makes all the difference in the battlefield of the future.

As the U.S. leads the way in developmental hypersonic weapons, it would only make sense that they also lead the way in developing the defenses against them, continuously placing the military at the forefront of technological development.