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McLaren partners with Ministry of Defence in £1 billion hypersonic missile project

Formula One team McLaren has joined forces with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in a groundbreaking £1 billion initiative to develop hypersonic missiles capable of rivalling those of Russia and China.

The Surrey-based car manufacturer has signed the Armed Forces Covenant to collaborate on a rocket designed to corner and swerve at speeds exceeding 4,000 mph. Hypersonic missiles, travelling at over Mach 5—five times the speed of sound—are known for their agility and difficulty to intercept.

The MoD aims to deploy these advanced missiles within six years, in response to Russia and China’s existing capabilities. Recent conflicts have showcased Russia’s hypersonic Kinzhal and Zircon missiles, while China test-fired two hypersonic weapons in 2022.

Piers Thynne, CEO of McLaren Racing, and Dai Powell represented McLaren at the signing, alongside Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Andrew Burns. Vice Admiral Burns remarked, “Defence and motorsport share a competitive instinct driven by the need to win.”

Piers Thynne added, “Aligning our expertise with the Armed Forces through this covenant is inspiring and sets a promising path for future collaboration.”

Hypersonic weapons, capable of outperforming standard cruise missiles with their speed and manoeuvrability, pose a significant challenge to enemy air defence systems. This project follows the MoD’s April announcement of the ‘DragonFire’ laser, designed to counter threats from Russian drones and missiles.

Additionally, British troops will soon test radio frequency weapons, which can disrupt enemy power supplies by firing magnetic pulses. These efforts underscore the urgency to enhance the UK’s defence capabilities in light of the Kremlin’s effective use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in Ukraine.

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McLaren partners with Ministry of Defence in £1 billion hypersonic missile project