On December 18 and 20, 2017, the US Department of Defense issued separate contracts valued at $ 110 million each from the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, respectively, for the first stage of developing, on a competitive basis, a promising low-cost aviation cruise missile under the symbol Gray Wolf.
The contracts were issued on the basis of AFL's March 2017 requirements for "designing, developing, manufacturing and testing" prototypes of low-cost subsonic air cruise missiles that should use advanced network-centric communication technologies to combat "integrated air defense threats to the enemy in the face of strong opposition." Thus, the main purpose of these missiles is the destruction of enemy air defenses. The missiles should network-centrically interact with other weapons for joint massive use, mutual issue of target designation, etc.
The Gray Wolf program should include four stages of "spiral development" and should provide an opportunity to evaluate solutions using an open architecture and a modular layout that allow the rapid creation of prototypes and improve them in a "spiral development". The missiles must solve the tasks of not only defeating targets, but also surveillance and reconnaissance, electronic reconnaissance and EW.
For the AFRL competition, seven US companies submitted their proposals for this program, of which the two projects were chosen. According to the first stage contracts awarded, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman should, by the end of 2022 and the end of 2024, respectively, develop and test prototypes of their missiles on this topic. Earlier, under the budget of 2017, both corporations received $ 3 million for the initial stage of research under this program.
Testing of Gray Wolf missiles of the first stage should be conducted with Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters. In the future, the missile should be integrated into the armament of F-35, F-15, F-18, B-1, B-2 and B-52 aircraft.