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The U.S. Air Force has revealed new details about its secretive Mayhem hypersonic air vehicle program. Previously it was understood that this program was focused, at least in part, on acquiring testbeds to support work on advanced high-speed jet engines like the ones that have reportedly been in development for proposed hypersonic aircraft such as Lockheed Martin's SR-72. The service has now disclosed that it is seeking a modular experimental design that could be configured to carry one of two different kinds of payloads for strike missions, or a sensor package to enable it to conduct "responsive" intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, or ISR, sorties.

The new information about Mayhem was contained in a contracting document that the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) posted online on Dec. 14, 2021. That same document also indicates that the full formal name of the program has changed from "Expendable Hypersonic Multi-Mission Air-Breathing Demonstrator" to "Hypersonic Multi-mission ISR and Strike." The name "Multi-Mission Cruiser" had been associated with this project in the past, as well. Mayhem, which the Air Force first disclosed the existence of last year, is also part of a larger AFRL effort known as Enabling Technologies for High-Speed Operable Systems (ETHOS).

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