Lockheed Martin landed a nearly $1 billion deal with the U.S. Air Force to develop a hypersonic cruise missile that can travel five times the speed of sound — that’s more than 3,800 mph — fending off competing bids by defense giants Northrop Grumman, Boeing and Raytheon.
The $928 million deal will be led by the company’s Huntsville, Ala.-based space division. An Orlando-based team that will take advantage of the local team’s “expertise in aircraft integration” also will be involved, a spokeswoman said in an email.
The contract puts the company in the middle of a weapons race that has seen China and Russia aggressively pursue hypersonic missiles.
According to CNBC, Air Force Gen. John Hyten told an armed services committee that the U.S. needed to develop the system as a deterrent to other countries.
“We don’t have any defense that could deny the employment of such a weapon against us,” he said in March.
The contract calls for the missile’s design, development and testing, along with its integration with aircraft.
Employing more than 7,000 in Central Florida, Lockheed Martin is expected to hire 500 more by early 2020 with average salaries around $87,000 — and about 1,800 jobs nationwide by February 2020.
Lockheed Martin’s stock price increased by 0.5 percent Thursday, closing the day at $353.38 per share. Overall, it has increased by about 7 percent during the last month.
Officials broke ground in February on a 255,000-square-foot Orlando facility that will accommodate as many as 1,000 workers. That location, just south of the intersection of Sand Lake and Kirkman roads, is expected to debut in 2019.
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