Old Weapons, New Tricks

As intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance expands into new sections of the electromagnetic spectrum, new capabilities are emerging – often within existing programs – to take on missions in cyber, electronic and information warfare.

Two weapons are illustrative: the high-speed, anti-radiation missile (HARM) that was designed to kinetically kill surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites, and the miniature air-launched decoy (MALD) that entices SAMs into revealing their positions electronically. To meet new military requirements, the missions of both are expected to expand, particularly in the areas of electronic and network attack.

The plain-vanilla MALD is basically a decoy. The payload allows it to replicate various targets depending on what the aircrew wants to simulate. The missile already is a required asset. It became operational in March 2010 on F-16s and B-52s.

“On the B-52, the Air Force has integrated it into the Smart 1760 [electrical] bus so an operator or intelligence specialist can sit in the B-52 and reprogram MALD in flight,” says Geoff White, business development manager for Raytheon’s MALD-J project. “He can launch it to fly a certain profile and trigger specific SAMs and electronic-warfare radars. You can then collect intelligence about the type and location of the IAD [integrated air defense] elements or go for a hard kill [with weapons like the HARM].”

Navy Interest

The Navy also is interested in MALD, and the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet is the likely airframe of choice. As planners look at attack-jamming devices, MALD is attractive because it can be released to conduct independent missions at stand-in ranges. It weighs less than 300 lb. with 80 lb. of fuel in it. It has a range of about 500 mi. or it can orbit for more than 2 hr.

The interest shown by the Air Force and Navy extends to an electronic-jamming variant, the MALD-J, that is to enter the Air Force arsenal in late 2012.

Perhaps more intriguing is that Raytheon intends to market the MALD-V, which is designed to carry a generic warhead that buyers can pack with their own payloads. The company has launched a study of electronic- and communications-attack payloads using high-power microwave or radio-frequency burst devices. It also has acquired companies that specialize in those areas.

“The truck is called the MALD-V,” White says. “You can put whatever you want in it. Some of the agnostic payloads that our international customers might be interested in include jamming devices, seekers, data links, communications relays or surveillance equipment. The most it can carry in its 2-foot-by-10-inch payload bay is about 50 pounds.”

MALD’s small size makes it hard to detect. It can take advantage of physics by getting much closer to a target than a manned aircraft or a larger unmanned airframe that is easier to track on radar. This makes it ideal for many missions, including attacking electronics with bursts of electromagnetic energy that can disable, disrupt or damage sensors, radars and computers. It fills the gap between a short-range, unpowered glide bomb and a long-range cruise missile. It operates up to 35,000 ft., and flies at speeds of Mach 0.2-0.9.

HARM also is expected to carry non-kinetic, directed-energy-type warheads as an anti-electronic weapon. An upgrade, the HARM Control Section Modification, is under way.

“What it brings to the table is enhanced [accuracy through] integrating GPS and an improved IMU [inertial measurement unit],” says David Young, HARM business development manager. “It would have the ability to reduce collateral damage and fratricide. We demonstrated that HARM could be upgraded to address low-power emitters, which addresses some of the shutdown tactics that [integrated air defenses] can employ.

 

-aviationweek.com

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