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PIC: Secret new US hypersonic spy jet unveiled; named ‘Mayhem’

The Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia. (Dreamstime/TNS)
December 19, 2022

The Pentagon has awarded a contract worth as much as $334 million to develop a new multi-purpose hypersonic air vehicle under a secretive program known as “Mayhem.”

The experimental Mayhem program is thought to be creating some kind of hypersonic aircraft capable of strikes as well as spying, also known as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), The War Zone reported.

The first details on Mayhem emerged in 2020, according to The War Zone. Now, Virginia defense contractor Leidos has been awarded an “indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract” for research and development of Mayhem, expected to be completed by Oct. 15, 2028.

In its announcement, the Pentagon describes the goal as “a larger class air-breathing hypersonic system capable of executing multiple missions with a standardized payload interface, providing a significant technological advancement and future capability.”

Leidos’ work is to be done at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, with other potential testing sites to be determined, according to the announcement. 

In its own press release, Leidos said its task is to develop “a large-class version” of the Mayhem system “that surpasses current air-breathing systems in range and payload capacity using digital engineering to ensure the design efforts help future development and transition.”

The firm is coordinating partnerships with the government, academia and private sector to prepare prototypes and leading efforts to “help ensure Mayhem can transition from idea to operational system,” according to the release.

The release refers to the Mayhem program’s full name as the “Expendable Hypersonic Multi-mission ISR and Strike program.” The War Zone reported that it’s unclear at this point whether the Mayhem project is more like a hypersonic missile or a jet.

According to The War Zone, a 2021 contract revealed that Mayhem’s “goal is to carry payloads five-times the mass and double the range” of current systems, with a “standardized payload interface” suitable to various types of missions.