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US taps Raytheon, Lockheed and Northrop for hypersonic defense

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US defense giants Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman have been awarded contracts to develop missiles that could protect the United States from hypersonic attacks, the Pentagon announced on Friday.

Hypersonic missiles, like traditional ballistic missiles, can fly more than five times the speed of sound (Mach 5).

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But they are more maneuverable than their ballistic counterparts and can trace a low trajectory in the atmosphere, making them harder to defend against.

The three contracts were awarded for the development of glide phase interceptors and together are worth more than $60 million, the Pentagon said.

In October the United States successfully tested hypersonic missile technology, which is already being deployed by China and Russia.

The Pentagon recently confirmed that China in August carried out a test of a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile that would be difficult to defend against, and has said that Beijing is expanding its arsenal more quickly than anticipated.

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