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Raytheon is developing a new anti-ship, hypersonic missile for the US Navy’s F-18 aircraft.

This development is phase one of the US Navy’s planned Hypersonic Air Launched Offensive Anti-Surface (HALO) program set to deliver the US Navy’s first-ever anti-ship hypersonic missile.

president of Advanced Technology at Raytheon Colin Whelan said that this is “a key step in fielding the Navy’s first anti-ship hypersonic missile,” adding that it is “critical that our warfighters have proven technology that can address advanced threats in contested environments, and they need this technology now. We’re leveraging our expertise in hypersonics to deliver a straightforward and mature, digitally engineered system at the pace the Navy needs.”

According to Interesting Engineering, the HALO program was first announced in 2023 when both Raytheon and Lockheed Martin were invited to develop HALO prototypes for high-speed, low-altitude missiles that can destroy enemy warships from hundreds of miles away. There is not much information about the proposals from the companies, but they are expected to feature scramjet engines, and be compatible with the FA-18E/F “Super Hornet,” F-35 “Lightning II” jet fighters, and future successors.

The HALO program is also a response to claims made by countries like China and Russia that have been very vocal regarding their use of scramjet-powered missiles. Examples include Russia’s “Zircon” anti-ship cruise missile and China’s DF-21D and DF-26B ballistic missiles.

The US Navy needs HALO to have exceptional speed in order to achieve its objectives. Advanced naval vessels usually have robust air defense radars and multi-layered systems with many missiles and close-defense Gatling cannons. Having highly efficient missiles increases the chances of breaching the enemy defenses and reduces the time to reach the target, which could ultimately disable their offensive weaponry before it is used.