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UPDATE 3-Raytheon $985 mln hypersonic award puts them far ahead in contracting race

(Adds Raytheon comment)

By Mike Stone

WASHINGTON, Sept 22 (Reuters) - The Pentagon on Thursday said it awarded Raytheon Technologies a $985 million dollar contract to develop prototypes for a hypersonic attack cruise missile, putting the firm well ahead of rivals in the race to become lead developer of the strategic weapons.

Raytheon beat out Boeing and Lockheed Martin to continue its development of the weapon. The award is a significant advance in the development of hypersonic weapons for the United States, and puts Raytheon in an early lead for a series of related, and high-value, contract awards in the years ahead.

Hypersonic weapons travel in the upper atmosphere at speeds of about 6,200 km per hour (3,853 mph), more than five times the speed of sound.

The hypersonic attack cruise missile (HACM) is an air launched hypersonic weapon being developed in cooperation with the Australian government.

"With advanced threats emerging around the globe, the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile will provide our warfighters a much-needed capability," said Wes Kremer, president of Raytheon Missiles & Defense.

The Air Force expects delivery in fiscal 2027.

The United States and China are engaged in an arms race to develop the most lethal hypersonic weapons, a top Air Force official acknowledged late last year, as Beijing and Washington build and test more and more of the high-speed next-generation arms. (Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington; Editing by Chris Reese and Richard Pullin)