Pentagon aiming to buy hypersonic missiles for $5M-10M per round

William LaPlante speaks during a fireside chat at DefenseTalks 2022. (DefenseScoop)

The Department of Defense is hoping to be able to procure hypersonic missiles for $5 million to $10 million per all-up round, according to the Pentagon’s top acquisition official.

The DOD has already spent billions of dollars on research, development, test and evaluation for these types of systems, and officials hope to transition them into production soon — with the Air Force, Army and Navy each looking to begin fielding the weapons in the next one to three years.

“What the hypersonics community is trying to do is shoot towards an all-up round cost that’s reasonable,” Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment William LaPlante said Thursday at the DefenseTalks conference hosted by DefenseScoop. “We’re not going to be able to buy very many of them if they’re $80 million all-up rounds. So they’re shooting for somewhere even as low as 10 or 5 million [dollars] a round. And that really is going to drive the numbers.”

By comparison, the non-hypersonic Tomahawk cruise missile costs about $2 million per round, and the SM-6 costs just under $5 million per round, according to Pentagon budget documents.

The budgeting process is already underway for the next Program Objective Memorandum, known as POM ’24, LaPlante noted.

“There is a wedge in the budget to do hypersonics and do it with production. We’re leaving open exactly the specific path that we’re going to use, but it will be funded. Absolutely,” he said.

The quantities that the DOD decides to buy will depend on the cost per round and the types of hypersonic weapons — namely, cruise missiles or boost-glide systems — that the Pentagon chooses to procure, he noted.

When asked for a ballpark figure for how many hypersonic missiles could be purchased over the future years defense program, LaPlante suggested it will be well beyond single digits.

“It’s not going to be our buying [just] eight of them. It’s going to be many more, many more. I don’t know if we know what the exact number is because it’s going to be driven by the price. But I would say certainly many tens of these at least. And again, it’s really a different answer on whether it’s the glide vehicle you’re talking about or the cruise missile,” he said.