back to article US Air Force signs $344m deal for hypersonic Mayhem aircraft

The US Air Force has awarded $334 million to defense contractor Leidos to develop the next phase in its hypersonic arsenal: An unmanned craft meant for super-speed spying dubbed "Mayhem."  This latest contract award comes less than a week after the USAF announced the successful test of its first service-ready hypersonic weapon …

  1. NoneSuch Silver badge

    Their version: "Expendable Hypersonic Multi-mission ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) and Strike program, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and strike craft."

    My version: Very fast drone.

    1. teknopaul

      $334 million

      I would be more interested in a device that costs less money to build that one that costs so much it can't be used in Ukraine.

      There is only one war in Europe and it will be one with cheap drones, big bombs, or lost.

      1. Tams

        Re: $334 million

        Nah, there's plenty of room for bigger, more resilient drones (that don't matter too much if they are shot down, but are less likely to be).

        The small ones that Ukraine are using are very useful, but they last around four days before they get downed.

      2. ShadowDragon8685

        Re: $334 million

        Remember: the United States Military is charged with being able to fight two simultaneous wars. Not just brushfire wars, or hot proxy wars like Ukraine, but we need to be able to fight both Russia and China at the same time, in both Europe and the Pacific Ocean. So yeah, we probably do need the Very Fast Drone.

        And we also definitely need to be giving Ukraine, at this point, basically everything short of the nukes. Then again, maybe we SHOULD give them the nukes. Mutually-Assured Destruction seems to be the only thing that will make Russia back down at this point, and no power can REALLY rely on a mutual-defense treaty that calls upon a nuclear nation to END HUMAN CIVILIZATION AS WE ALL KNOW IT on their behalf if they're facing being ended as their own country by a nuclear power.

        If you want to have nuclear weapons as a deterrent to assured destruction, they have to be in the hands of the people whose homelands ARE facing wholesale critical existence failure.

    2. Black Label
      Black Helicopters

      My version: USA cheap talk.

      USA has no proved hypersonic capability - besides CGI.

      China and Russia does have well and publicly documented hypersonic capability.

      1. W4YBO

        "USA cheap talk"

        DARPA's motto is "Creating and preventing strategic surprise," so you go right ahead believing that.

        1. Black Label
          Black Helicopters

          Re: "DARPA's motto is"

          I see, so.. is all going well with DARPA's microwave neural interface?

          1. ShadowDragon8685

            Re: "DARPA's motto is"

            We'll know when we can all jack into The Matrix/The Mesh/The Grid/Whatever.

            Let's jack into the Whatever!

  2. Phones Sheridan Silver badge

    “ he US Government's stated goal is to develop hypersonic weapons able to strike anywhere in the world within an hour.”

    Stick a cockpit on it, paint it blue and silver and name it Thunderbird 1 please!

    1. zuckzuckgo Silver badge

      >Stick a cockpit on it, paint it blue and silver and name it Thunderbird 1 please!

      And change its mission to "search and rescue"?

    2. MyffyW Silver badge

      Or paint it a dark grey and put Maverick in it. Mach 10 .... 10.1 .... ooops

  3. Glen 1

    Any pilot would have to wear a M.A.S.K...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward



    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Expendable

      Drones are more expendable than aircraft. They're generally cheaper, and don't have a pilot.

      Some drones are so cheap you only expect to use them a couple of times each, and don't mind when you lose one, you just unwrap one of the spares. Both sides in Ukraine are going online and buying up vast numbers of $500 drones that are either shot down or lost due to electronic warfare. They average about 4 days, acccording to the Ukranian MoD.

      Some drones are expensive and very re-useable but still expendable. Take something like the Predator. Designed to loiter at medium height over the batttlefield for literaly hours giving intel to your ground troops and with the ability to launch a couple of Hellfire missiles. Now these are expensive, but anything hanging around over the enemy for that long is asking to get shot down eventually. Ukraine's (cheaper) Turkish-supplied Bayraktar donres fall into this category. They try to minimise risk, but they've also been used on missions where the operators knew they'd lose the drone. Like the Predator this mainly does recce, but has small missiles it can fire.

      Then you've got the drone that can also be a missile. The Iranian Shahed that Russia has bought about a thousand of and has been chucking at Ukraine's power system. It can land, and do recce. But I don't think it has missiles. However it can carry a small warhead. You just don't get the drone back if you use it in that mode. I guess, because it can also be re-usable for recce, it becomes an expendable drone.

      This is going to be a big purchasing dilemma for ministries of defence around the world. The cheap drones die in huge numbers, but are very useful. Something better, that can resist electronic warfare would be good - so the enemy can't so easily choose to blind an area of your front line. But those might not be all that much more survivable, and will certainly be much more expensive. So do you want very cheap and good enough some of the time, or quite expensive and better, but fewer in number?

      Then you've got the really expensive stuff like Predator, which costs as much as a small aircraft but is possibly only survivable in counter-insurgency warfare. Or something almost as big and almost as capable but much cheaper like Bayraktar or the bit less good Iranian Shahed.

      A lot is happening in this space, and a lot of money is getting spent. And now everyone's panicking about building anti-drone defences - which is then going to lead to further changes in drone technology.

      1. EnviableOne

        Re: Expendable

        I always go back to what the Airfield Fire team told me, their job is to get the pilot out because including fuel and training it costs more than the £100m+ the aircraft cost.

        The other thing is the meat bag in the cockpit has the need to breathe and survive so anything over 6G is an issue

        1. Toni the terrible Bronze badge

          Re: Expendable

          As a meatbag I resemble that.

          But note female meat bags are physically better than male meatbags for high speed fighters( smaller, lighter can take more Gs) but Western Govs tend not to use them.

      2. Toni the terrible Bronze badge

        Re: Expendable

        You mix and match to the mission, e.g., have loads of cheap drones and hidden amongst them are the more costly ones

  5. Wu Ming


    Wondering if the air breathing engine has anything related with Reaction Engines and the SABRE concept. And how their test campaign in the US is progressing.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: SABRE?

      I have no doubt the US already have all the relevant specs. If they hadn't already acquired them, taking the kit to the US for testing was as good as giving them the tech for free.

      1. Wu Ming

        Re: SABRE?

        Their super fast air cooling technology is being commercially explored already. So the company is alive and iterating on the core concept. I haven’t found much news about the engine test campaign though. Given the history founders had with the UK military I was surprised they accepted any further involvement with that potential line of application. But also for such an applied technology breakthrough public funding appears inexplicably scarce. More as example goes for countless EU Horizon projects, not exactly famous for obtaining useable results, and this well before UK left the union. So there may be more progress than publicly available.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There are stories of WW2 aircraft going into a steep dive and getting peppered by their own bullets as they caught up with them... at Mach 5 (Mach 20!) the only view of the target is liable to be in the rear view mirror as you fire the munitions out of the tailpipe

    "200 miles to target"... "50 miles to target"... "10 miles. Locked on target".. "FIRE!"... "missed by 100 miles"

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