African Darter

According to Helmoed-Römer Heitman, Jane’s Defence Weekly correspondent, Denel Dynamics is close to completing the development of its new A-Darter – Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (SRAAM). The missile is in the final stage of air-launched guided evaluation firing trials, which have seen two missiles being launched from a Saab JAS-39 Gripen at the end of 2014 against Skua high-speed targets to confirm the guidance, control, and free-flight seeker performance, including a lock-on-after-launch engagement. These firings demonstrated a high-G performance even greater than required by the specification, the company said.

The A-Darter missile uses common LAU-7 type launchers, and is designed to work with standard MIL-STD-1553 databus systems
The A-Darter missile uses common LAU-7 type launchers, and is designed to work with standard MIL-STD-1553 databus systems

Two further missile firings are planned for the first part of this year to complete the testing process. The next phase of the development programme will be formal qualification, which will be concluded with a series of guided firings involving both the South African and Brazilian air forces to confirm performance acceptance.

Meanwhile, Denel is getting ready to industrialise the A-Darter and is negotiating a production contract for the South African Air Force (SAAF) with the country’s arms procurement agency, Armscor. Denel hopes to receive the contract during the first quarter of this year.

Denel is also in discussions with Brazil – which partnered with Denel Dynamics in the A-Darter development – to begin industrialisation in that country. Brazil’s decision to acquire the Gripen E/F as its future fighter will, to some extent, simplify its A-Darter integration as the SAAF has already gone through this process with its older Gripens. Denel is also beginning work with BAE Systems on integrating the A-Darter with the SAAF’s Hawk Mk 120 aircraft.

The A-Darter is a modern «body-lift» missile with thrust-vector control that gives it a very high angle of attack. It uses a multi-element imaging infrared seeker with a 180° field of view, and digital processing based on the latest available hardware and software. Its rocket motor has a low launch signature, making it harder to detect by countermeasures systems.

One important similarity with MBDA’s AIM-132 ASRAAM is a streamlined design with few control surfaces, in order to minimize drag and maximize range
One important similarity with MBDA’s AIM-132 ASRAAM is a streamlined design with few control surfaces, in order to minimize drag and maximize range

 

A-Darter

A-Darter is a leading wingtip fifth-generation Imaging Infrared (IIR) SRAAM air-to-air missile system. It has a lock-on after launch and memory tracking with the latest processing capabilities. The A-Darter may be designated to a target by using the aircraft’s radar, a helmet sight or the missile’s very effective autonomous scan feature if radar silence is required. The seeker’s large look-angles and the airframe’s agility enable high off-bore sight helmet-designated firings. Long-range intercepts beyond IR detection range are also possible with the lock-on after launch capability of the A-Darter.

The missile can be integrated on the latest and older generation aircraft platforms. It has already been integrated on the JAS-23 Gripen and integration on the Hawk Mk 120 is under way.

To take maximum advantage of that design decision, lock-on after launch capability will allow A-Darter to fly to a specified area before acquiring the target with its seeker head, using an inertial navigation system from BAE Systems (now divested as Atlantic Inertial Systems) for pre-lock navigation
To take maximum advantage of that design decision, lock-on after launch capability will allow A-Darter to fly to a specified area before acquiring the target with its seeker head, using an inertial navigation system from BAE Systems (now divested as Atlantic Inertial Systems) for pre-lock navigation

 

System Features

  • A-Darter is a leading wingtip mounted fifth-generation Imaging Infrared (IIR) SRAAM that will enhance air platform’s lethality.
  • Designed by Denel Dynamics (co-funded by Brazil), utilising its 50 years of air-to-air missile experience.
  • High agility (thrust vector controlled) to handle the closest of close combats.
  • A two-colour thermal imaging seeker with high sensitivity and a multi-mode ECCM (Electronic Counter-CounterMeasures) suite.
  • Advanced digital processing capability ensures improved performance in terms of image detection, false target rejection, ECCM, guidance and control.
It’s expected to be a 5th generation weapon
It’s expected to be a 5th generation weapon

 

Principle of Operation

The A-Darter may be designated to a target by using the aircraft’s radar, a helmet sight or the missile’s very effective autonomous scan feature if radar silence is required. The seeker’s large look-angles and the airframe’s agility enable high off-boresight helmet-designated firings. Long-range intercepts beyond IR detection range are also possible with the lock-on after launch capability of the A-Darter.

 

Technical Data

Length:                                              9.77 feet/2,98 m

Diameter:                                        6.53 in/166 mm

Mass:                                                  205 lbs/93 kg

Reports indicate modern thermal imaging technology with a wide «boresight angle» for targeting, reportedly a 90-degree look angle with cockpit-selectable seeker scan patterns. Track rate is reportedly about 120 degrees per second, and target acquisition is said to be quick
Reports indicate modern thermal imaging technology with a wide «boresight angle» for targeting, reportedly a 90-degree look angle with cockpit-selectable seeker scan patterns. Track rate is reportedly about 120 degrees per second, and target acquisition is said to be quick

Bird-Eye in India

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and India’s Alpha Design Technologies have signed a teaming agreement for the production and marketing of mini-Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) in India. The IAI-Alpha cooperation includes IAI’s Bird-Eye 400 and Bird-Eye 650 mini UAS as well as other mini-Unmanned Aerial Systems, to accommodate the operational needs of Indian customers.

Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. is Israel's largest aerospace and Defense Company and a globally recognized technology and innovation leader specializing in developing and manufacturing advanced, state-of-the-art systems for air, space, sea, land, cyber and homeland security
Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. is Israel’s largest aerospace and Defense Company and a globally recognized technology and innovation leader specializing in developing and manufacturing advanced, state-of-the-art systems for air, space, sea, land, cyber and homeland security

Production of the systems will take place in India, while the marketing will be a joint effort of the two companies. Integration of additional applications and subsystems will be performed by Alpha in India with IAI’s support. Potential customers in India include security agencies and all defense organizations including police forces, coastguard and Border Security Forces (BSF).

Shaul Shahar, IAI VP and General Manager of the Military Aircraft Group said: «IAI’s teaming agreement with Alpha follows India’s policy for «Buy and make India». Our unique mini-UAS have proved exceptional operational capabilities. IAI’s knowledge in producing the world’s most advanced and innovative Unmanned Aerial Systems, with Alpha’s know-how and access to users will create a strong, fruitful partnership for the benefit of India’s defense and security organizations».

Col. H. S. Shankar, Chairman & Managing Director, Alpha Design Technologies Private Limited, Bangalore said: «The important vision of «Make in India» is being made fully effective by this joint effort. Alpha will meet the huge market in India and will examine further, later exports by Alpha, through IAI to various countries».

The Bird-Eye 400 system is an optimal solution for low echelon forces to obtain real time intelligence
The Bird-Eye 400 system is an optimal solution for low echelon forces to obtain real time intelligence

 

Bird Eye 400

The Bird Eye 400 is an advanced, affordable Mini UAV System providing real-time day/night imagery data for urban operation and «over the hill» intelligence. The Bird-Eye 400 offers a high-level of operational flexibility with latest generation Bird Eye 400 autonomous flight and mission capabilities.

Typical Missions

  • Surveillance
  • Reconnaissance
  • Damage assessment
  • Urban operation

Main Features

  • Safe, reliable and easy operation
  • Man-portable system with fast field deployment by 2 crewmen
  • «Under belly» camera for optimal coverage, stabilized picture with high-resolution imagery
  • Bungee launch and optimized recovery concept
  • Fully automated flight including Takeoff and Landing
  • Electrical propulsion for minimal audio signature
  • Low lifecycle cost
The Bird-Eye 400 system main features and capabilities are safe, reliable and easy operation
The Bird-Eye 400 system main features and capabilities are safe, reliable and easy operation

Technical data

Maximum takeoff weight:                 5.8 kg/12.76 lbs

Payload:                                                        Color TV/IR

Maximum payload weight:                1.2 kg/2.64 lbs

Engine:                                                           Electrical Propulsion

Wingspan:                                                    2.2 m/7.21 feet

Operational altitude:                            500-1500 feet/152-457 m AGL (Above Ground Level)

Endurance:                                                  up to 90 min

Mission radius:                                          20 km/6.25 miles

Maximum speed:                                      60 KTAS/69 mph/111 km/h

 

Bird-Eye 650

Advanced, affordable mini UAS, providing real time day/night imagery data for urban operation and over-the-hill intelligence. A high level of operational flexibility with the latest generation of autonomous flight and mission capabilities.

Main Features and Capabilities

  • 12-hour system operation, carried in three backpacks, operation by two persons
  • Wide coverage, stabilized day/night payload and moving target tracker
  • Fully automated and autonomous flight
  • Extremely low-visual and noise signature (electrical propulsion)
  • Unique survivability and safety fail safe recovery system, flip-over concept, parachute descent
  • Ruggedized portable GCS (Ground Control Station)
The Bird-Eye 650 system is an advanced solution for low echelon forces to obtain real time intelligence
The Bird-Eye 650 system is an advanced solution for low echelon forces to obtain real time intelligence

Typical Missions

  • ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance)
  • Urban Operation
  • Counter-terrorism
  • Law Enforcement
  • Patrol and Convoys Escort

Performance

Mission Radius:                               up to 50 km/31 miles

Endurance:                                         up to 5 h

Operational Altitude AGL:       up to 1,500 feet/457 m

Loiter Speed:                                     40 KTAS/46 mph/74 km/h

Maximum Speed:                           65 KTAS/75 mph/120 km/h

Technical Data

Maximum Take Off Weight (MTOW):   11 kg/24 lbs

Maximum payload weight:                            1.2 kg/2.6 lbs

Wingspan:                                                                3 m/9.84 feet

 

The Bird-Eye 400 system is an optimal solution for low echelon forces to obtain real time intelligence, independent of higher echelon sources

 

Global Umbrella

Across the globe, a variety of air and missile defense threats are evolving and proliferating. At the same time, adversaries are exploiting weaknesses in America’s air and missile defense system, said Brigadier General Christopher L. Spillman, commandant of the Army Air Defense Artillery School. Spillman and other missile defense experts met during an Association of the United States Army panel, February 12, to discuss how the United States could better attain networked mission command.

Like a missile defense dashboard, IBCS would one day control existing interceptor, missile and artillery systems along with futuristic laser, microwave and electromagnetic pulse weapons still in development
Like a missile defense dashboard, IBCS would one day control existing interceptor, missile and artillery systems along with futuristic laser, microwave and electromagnetic pulse weapons still in development

Adversaries are employing their own ballistic missile capabilities and coordinating them with cruise missile and unmanned aerial system threats, Spillman said, calling their efforts «complex and integrated». The Army needs to regain its air-defense advantage and «move beyond our current limited-point-defense», Spillman added. The reason for the urgency in addressing Air and Missile Defense, or AMD, vulnerabilities is due in large part to the current «inflexible, stove-piped command and control systems».

Major General Ole A. Knudson, program executive for the Program and Integration, Missile Defense Agency, said each military service has its own AMD architecture, but those architectures are not «entirely compatible» with one another.

That architecture, Spillman said, is much more complex than a just a physical network of fiber, relays, routers and servers. It also involves connectivity between sensors, radars, launchers and shooters. The systems need to communicate seamlessly across the battlespace to more effectively engage the enemy and reduce risk from errors, including those that result in fratricide.

Barry J. Pike, deputy program executive officer, program executive office missile and space, said that fixing AMD integration weak points is so important because it is «a foundational capability the Army provides» to combatant commanders, as outlined in the recently released Army Operating Concept.

A Ground-based Interceptor roars into the sky carrying a Raytheon-built Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle on June 22, 2014. The kill vehicle destroyed a simulated ballistic missile high over the Pacific Ocean (Missile Defense Agency photo)
A Ground-based Interceptor roars into the sky carrying a Raytheon-built Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle on June 22, 2014. The kill vehicle destroyed a simulated ballistic missile high over the Pacific Ocean (Missile Defense Agency photo)

 

IAMD-Battle Command System Solution

The services are working together now to integrate AMD networks and mission-command functions through an effort known as Integrated Air and Missile Defense – Battle Command System, or IBCS, Spillman said. He noted that IBCS will give combatant commanders and AMD «a flexibility that doesn’t exist today. It will transform the force».

Barry Pike said that with IBCS, the Army hopes to partner with industry to build non-proprietary network capabilities that are modular, and that have open-system architecture that uses existing industry standards. The idea is to have common human-system interface requirements that allow standardization, more rapid development, cost reduction and future add-ons, he said. Testing is well underway on integration efforts with the other services, Pike said.

Raytheon’s newest variant, the SM-3 Block IB, is launched from a U.S. Navy ship during testing
Raytheon’s newest variant, the SM-3 Block IB, is launched from a U.S. Navy ship during testing

Daniel J. Verwiel, vice president and general manager of integrated air and missile defense for Northrop Grumman Information Systems, said that IBCS efforts will ultimately lead to handing off AMD «to the best possible shooter», be it from a ship or the shore.

Spillman said that at the same time the Army develops the IBCS, it will also need to prepare to train Soldiers to use it. Soldiers will need adequate time to train on new systems and leaders will have to be the ones who successfully execute any new implementation.

Spillman said AMD, with all its weaknesses, is deployed worldwide in support of combatant commanders to shape the environment, enable projection of national power, defend the homeland and reassure allies.

Around 58% of the AMD force is forward-deployed or forward-stationed, he said.

 

NATO intelligence reports indicate the threat of ballistic missiles is increasing in number and complexity. By 2018, all of Europe could be at risk.

 

Egypt’s Rafale

Dassault Aviation announced the sale of 24 Rafale fighter aircraft to Egypt on 12 February. Dassault is greatly honored by the Arab Republic of Egypt’s decision to equip its air force with the Rafale. This decision is a continuation of the cooperation that dates back to the 1970s, and has seen the Mirage 5, the Alpha Jet and the Mirage 2000 fly in the colors of Egypt. The Rafale meets the needs of countries that, like Egypt, demand a sovereign air force of the best level.

The Rafale features a delta wing with close-coupled canards. In-house research in computational fluid dynamics has shown the specific benefits of close coupling between the wings and the canards: it ensures a wide range of centre of gravity positions for all flight conditions, as well as benign handling throughout the whole flight envelope
The Rafale features a delta wing with close-coupled canards. In-house research in computational fluid dynamics has shown the specific benefits of close coupling between the wings and the canards: it ensures a wide range of centre of gravity positions for all flight conditions, as well as benign handling throughout the whole flight envelope

«I would like to thank the highest Egyptian authorities for this strategic and historic partnership. Dassault Aviation will be equal to the faith that they have placed in us yet again», declared Eric Trappier, President and CEO of Dassault Aviation. «I would also like to thank the French authorities, which were behind the Rafale program, and have provided the political support, without which we cannot make any military exports. I would also like to pay tribute to the skills and know-how of the 7,000 people who work on the Rafale at Dassault Aviation, Thales, Safran and for our 500 subcontractors».

The Rafale is the first completely omnirole fighter capable of accomplishing all the missions assigned to combat aircraft (air-air, air-ground, air-sea). It first came into active service with the French Navy and the French Air Force in 2004-2006, gradually replacing seven types of aircraft belonging to the preceding generations. It was deployed in Afghanistan (2007-2012), Libya (2011), in the Sahel-Saharan strip (since 2013) and in Iraq (since September 2014). It was chosen for the Indian Army’s request for proposal for 126 aircraft. Negotiations surrounding the Rafale are currently underway with several governments.

Dassault Aviation produces military aircraft (Rafale, drones) and business aircraft (the Falcons) in the same design office and the same production plants. Its civil activities benefit from the high technology derived from its defense activities and offer an international capacity for industrial development in return. The contract with Egypt consolidates this business model, which is without equal in the aerospace industry. Over the last 50 years, Dassault Aviation has exported 72% of its aircraft to more than 90 countries.

The close-coupled canards/delta wing configuration is key to the combat performance of the Rafale: even at high angle-of-attack, it remains fully agile, and its range performance in strike missions with heavy weapon loads is unmatched for such a compact design
The close-coupled canards/delta wing configuration is key to the combat performance of the Rafale: even at high angle-of-attack, it remains fully agile, and its range performance in strike missions with heavy weapon loads is unmatched for such a compact design

 

Rafale

The Rafale, with its «omnirole» capabilities, is the right answer to the capability approach selected by an increasing number of governments. It fully complies with the requirement to carry out the widest range of roles with the smallest number of aircraft. The Rafale participates in permanent «Quick Reaction Alert» (QRA)/air-defence/air sovereignty missions, power projection and deployments for external missions, deep strike missions, air support for ground forces, reconnaissance missions, pilot training sorties and nuclear deterrence duties. The Air Force single-seat Rafale C, the Air Force two-seat Rafale B, and the naval single-seat Rafale M feature maximum airframe and equipment commonality, and very similar mission capabilities.

Lessons learned from the latest conflicts where air power was used, can be summarized into four overarching expectations about weapon systems by political decision makers:

  • «Versatility», that is the capability, with the same system, to perform different missions.
  • «Interoperability», or the ability to fight in coalition with the allies, using common procedures and standards agreements, and collaborating and communicating in real-time with other systems.
  • «Flexibility», which can be illustrated by the ability to conduct several different missions in the course of the same sortie («omnirole» capability). With this capability, it is possible to switch instantly on the demand of a political decision maker, from a coercion mission («strike force») to a preventive mission (a dissuasive low-altitude, high-speed «show of force»), or even to cancel a mission until the last second (reversibility).
  • «Survivability», that is the capability to survive in a dense threat environment thanks to stealthiness and/or to advanced electronic warfare systems.

The «omnirole» Rafale combines all these advantages: it is relevant against both traditional and asymmetrical threats, it addresses the emerging needs of the armed forces in a changing geopolitical context, and it remains at the forefront of technical innovation. Thanks to its versatility, its adaptability and its ability to meet all air mission requirements, the Rafale is the «poster child» transformational fighter, which provides a way forward to air forces confronted to the requirement of doing «more» with «less», in an ever-changing strategic environment.

Composite materials are extensively used in the Rafale and they account for 70% of the wetted area. They also account for the 40% increase in the max take-off weight to empty weight ratio compared with traditional airframes built of aluminium and titanium
Composite materials are extensively used in the Rafale and they account for 70% of the wetted area. They also account for the 40% increase in the max take-off weight to empty weight ratio compared with traditional airframes built of aluminium and titanium

 

SPECIFICATIONS AND PERFORMANCE

Dimensions

Wingspan:                                                 10.90 m/35.76 feet

Length:                                                        15.30 m/50.19 feet

Height:                                                         5.30 m/17.38 feet

Weight

Overall empty weight:                        10,000 kg/22,000 lbs class

Maximum take-off weight:               24,500 kg/54,000 lbs

Fuel (internal):                                          4,700 kg/10,300 lbs

Fuel (external):                                         up to 6,700 kg/14,700 lbs

External load:                                            9,500 kg/21,000 lbs

Store stations

Total:                                                               14

Heavy – wet:                                                5

Performance

Maximum thrust:                                       2 × 7.5 tons

Limit load factors:                                      – 3.2 g/+ 9 g

Maximum speed (Low altitude):        M = 1.1/750 knots/863 mph/ 1389 km/h

Maximum speed (High altitude):       M = 1.8/1,032 knots/1,187 mph/ 1,911 km/h

Approach speed:                          less than 120 knots/138 mph/222 km/h

Landing ground run:                  1,500 feet/450 m without drag-chute

Service ceiling:                              50,000 feet/15,240 m

The radar cross section of the airframe has been kept to the lowest possible value by selecting the most adequate outer mould line and materials. Most of the stealth design features are classified, but some of them are clearly visible, such as the serrated patterns on the trailing edge of the wings and canards
The radar cross section of the airframe has been kept to the lowest possible value by selecting the most adequate outer mould line and materials. Most of the stealth design features are classified, but some of them are clearly visible, such as the serrated patterns on the trailing edge of the wings and canards

MMC: Replacement
of the Milan

The French Defence Procurement Agency (Direction Générale de l’Armement) successfully carried out the first firing of MMP (Missile de Moyenne Portée or Medium Range Missile), the successor to the Milan weapon system. Carried out at the DGA Techniques Terrestres site in Bourges (central France), the firing test served to confirm MMP’s excellent accuracy in locking onto a target at a distance of more than 4,000 m and that was hidden from view at launch. This success is the result of the coordinated efforts of both state (DGA and French Army) and industrial (MBDA France) participants.

MMP (Missile de Moyenne Portée or Medium Range Missile) in operation
MMP (Missile de Moyenne Portée or Medium Range Missile) in operation

MMP is a high technology, new generation missile forming one of the French MoD’s (Ministry of Defence) new programmes within the Military Planning Act 2014-2019 aimed at modernising the French Army.

This versatile missile, conceived by MBDA France, is currently in its development phase following the notification of a development contract by the DGA on 3rd December 2013. It will enable the armed forces to neutralise, with a high level of precision, the many different types of target that might be confronted during operations, ensuring that collateral damage is kept to a minimum and at the same time maximizing the safety of the operator. The delivery date of the system to the French Army is scheduled for 2017. According to Jane’s Defence Weekly, in total the army has ordered 2,850 missiles and 400 firing posts from MBDA, with the missile not only intended to arm infantry personnel but also intended to be vehicle-launched from platforms such as the army’s upcoming Jaguar 6×6 reconnaissance vehicle.

Further test firings have already been programmed by the DGA Techniques Terrestres to take place during the first quarter of 2015.

MMP on MPCV Turret at Eurosatory 2014
MMP on MPCV Turret at Eurosatory 2014

 

MMP (Missile de Moyenne Portée)

MBDA is currently developing MMP (Missile Moyenne Portée), the medium range, ground combat as a successor to MILAN (the eponymous anti-tank system supplied to over 40 armies around the world). MMP is a fifth generation weapon system responding to the requirements outlined within the French Army’s FELIN and SCORPION programmes. FELIN is a programme aimed at developing the necessary equipment for the French infantryman of the future while SCORPION will advance the integration and coordination of the range of equipment deployed by future French ground forces, calling for wide-ranging digitisation and platform interoperability. In this respect, MMP is also relevant to other ground forces around the world that are in the process of preparing for the requirements of the battlefield well into the future.

MMP’s entirely new concept takes into consideration the experience gained from recent conflicts, where the need to master the delivery of military effects without collateral damage has been shown to be a major operational requirement.

MMP is man portable (the missile in its tube weighs only 15 kg), easy to set up and operate by a two-man team. It is the ideal combat support weapon for the modern soldier who might be called upon to fight either out in the open battlefield or from confined spaces within a complex urban environment. The system can be used either in conjunction with a lightweight, portable digital firing post (weighing only 11 kg, battery included) or alternatively, mounted on a typical armoured vehicle.

High level of day and night, all-weather reconnaissance and identification capability
High level of day and night, all-weather reconnaissance and identification capability

Its shaped tandem warhead (MMP features a unique selectable charge depending on the intended target) provides lethality at ranges of up to 4 km against a wide range of stationary or moving ground targets from bunkers and machine gun posts to tanks equipped with the latest Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA).

Equipped with a non-cooled, dual-mode visible/infrared seeker, MMP is able to engage both hot and cold targets. To ensure operator survivability, MMP’s «fire-and-forget» capability allows the operator to fire and disengage immediately without having to wait for the missile to strike its intended target. However, in a complex environment where collateral damage is a concern, MMP’s optic fibre link enables MITL (Man-In-The-Loop) operation.

Combined with a navigation function integrated within the missile, the optical link via the missile allows for a full NLOS (Non Line Of Sight) operation as well, a function further enhanced within a modern info-centric environment. These are the features that combine to create a true 5th generation combat support weapon.

MMP represents the first missile within a family of ground and air-platform launched surface combat missiles. These missiles will share not only the same airframe diameter but also significant elements of technology in line with MBDA’s GMA (General Missile Architecture) strategy, a strategy aimed at reducing both cost and development risk.

Rapid reaction operation, firing sequence reversibility
Rapid reaction operation, firing sequence reversibility

 

Features

  • Lightweight weapon system, easily man-portable
  • High level of day and night, all-weather reconnaissance and identification capability
  • Confined space firing capability
  • Rapid reaction operation, firing sequence reversibility
  • Lethality against a wide target set: hot and cold targets, including latest MBTs (Main Battle Tanks)
  • Collateral damage risk minimization

 

MMP missile

  • Dual-band seeker (uncooled IR and TV channel)
  • MEMS IMU (MicroElectroMechanical Systems Inertial Measurement Unit) for inertial navigation
  • Two-stage main propulsion system (soft launch)
  • Multipurpose tandem warhead capable of defeating 1,000 mm of RHA (Rolled Homogeneous Armour), 2,000 mm of concrete
  • Maintenance free
The missile also intended to be vehicle-launched
The missile also intended to be vehicle-launched

 

MMP interactive firing post

  • Fully digitized
  • Latest generation IR band 2 and day camera
  • Laser range finder
  • GPS and magnetic compass
  • Autonomous operation and NCW (Network-Centric Waveform) compatible
  • Modular to facilitate integration on combat vehicles

 

MMP training simulators

  • Gunnery training simulator for indoor training
  • Combat firing simulator for technical firing instruction and tactical training in the field

 

Range: 4,000 m

Real time data-link

Three operating modes:

  • Fire-and-Forget;
  • Man-In-The-Loop with fibre-optic data-link;
  • Lock-On-After-Launch (NLOS and using third party target coordinates).
Lightweight weapon system, easily man-portable
Lightweight weapon system, easily man-portable

 

Dual-band seeker:

  • Uncooled IR;
  • TV channel.

 

Missile

Weight (incl. tube):                    15 kg

Length:                                              1.3 m in tactical canister

Diameter:                                        140 mm

Range:                                                4,000 m

Real time data-link (fibre-optic)

 

Interactive firing post:

  • Weight (incl. tripod and battery): 11 kg;
  • Autonomous with battery or can be connected to external power sources.

 

The latest (fifth) generation land combat missile system designed for dismounted infantry as well as for integration on combat vehicles. Featuring both fire-and-forget and man-in-the-loop operation, network-enabled MMP also receives third party target coordinates for indirect firing scenarios. MMP’s design includes the growth potential necessary for a future family of missiles for modern land combat.

Smart gun

More firepower, improved accuracy and smart integrated accessories that connect to command and control networks are the headline features of the new integrated assault rifle concept that Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) and Colt Canada have developed for the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).

Canada’s proposed “smart gun” design combines a 5.56-mm automatic rifle using case-telescope ammunition and either a 40-mm grenade launcher or a 12-gauge (18-mm) shotgun, increasing firepower and improving tactical flexibility
Canada’s proposed “smart gun” design combines a 5.56-mm automatic rifle using case-telescope ammunition and either a 40-mm grenade launcher or a 12-gauge (18-mm) shotgun, increasing firepower and improving tactical flexibility

The prototype, in development since 2009 through the Soldier Integrated Precision Effects Systems (SIPES) project, includes a firing mechanism to shoot lightweight cased telescoped ammunition, a secondary effects module for increased firepower and a NATO standard power and data rail to integrate accessories like electro-optical sights and position sensors.

In order to support the multi-role nature of the weapon, the prototype’s secondary effects module features the ability to install either a three round 40-mm grenade launcher, or a 12-gauge (18-mm) shotgun. When optimized, the integrated weapon prototype could weigh less than a C7 equipped with a M203 grenade launcher, reducing the burden on soldiers.

«In the medium term, this weapon concept represents a lethal, flexible general-purpose platform», said Lieutenant-Colonel Serge Lapointe, from the Soldier Systems group in Director Land Requirements – Soldier Systems (DLR 5) of the Canadian Army. «It will be able to operate in all theatres of operations in the most complex terrain including urban areas, mountains, jungles, deserts and the Arctic».

When optimized, the integrated weapon prototype could weigh less than a C7 equipped with a M203 grenade launcher, reducing the burden on soldiers
When optimized, the integrated weapon prototype could weigh less than a C7 equipped with a M203 grenade launcher, reducing the burden on soldiers

The development of the weapon prototype posed a considerable challenge. DRDC scientists analyzed advanced material technologies that could replace the metal used in heavy components. The lightweight case telescoped ammunition was tested extensively with the support of the Munitions Experimental Test Centre in Valcartier, Quebec to assess its long-term aging behaviour. Scientists also studied how to increase the rifle’s accuracy using technology that can automatically detect targets and assist with engaging them. Questions related to the sensors needed to accurately geo-locate targets for target data sharing were also investigated.

How the soldier interacts with the weapon was also the subject of numerous human factor trials. Ergonomic and weapon prototype handling tests were performed by Human Systems Inc., under the supervision of DRDC scientists, with CAF soldiers from military bases in Petawawa and Edmonton. The testing was crucial to developing optimal design criteria to meet the CAF’s needs for the Small Arms Modernization project.

In addition, lessons learned by both DRDC personnel and the CAF during their deployment in Afghanistan revealed critical elements that informed the prototype weapon development process with respect to its design and functionality.

In order to support the multi-role nature of the weapon, the prototype’s secondary effects module features the ability to install either a three round 40-mm grenade launcher, or a 12-gauge shotgun
In order to support the multi-role nature of the weapon, the prototype’s secondary effects module features the ability to install either a three round 40-mm grenade launcher, or a 12-gauge shotgun

«The results of the first phase of the project have shown that DRDC expertise can be used to provide the Canadian Armed Forces with solid scientific data so they can make more informed decisions for their major acquisition projects», said Dr. Guy Vézina, the Director General for S&T Army, DRDC.

The new weapon prototype is a promising development for the soldier of the future. The integration of electronic components will allow soldiers to generate or receive data from the command and control network. In the next phase of development, automated target detection and assisted target engagement will be the subject of an in-depth study in the Future Small Arms Research (FSAR) project.

Finally, the development of the integrated weapon prototype and the continuing analysis of promising technologies should facilitate the acquisition of the next generation of small arms by the CAF. The data collected and the analyses documented so far by DRDC scientists will be used in conjunction with the data and analyses that will be generated in the FSAR project to develop the technical criteria that will form part of the statement of operational requirement documentation for the CAF Small Arms Modernization project.

The keel of Wichita

The Lockheed Martin industry team officially laid the keel for the U.S. Navy’s thirteenth Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), the future USS Wichita, in a ceremony held at Marinette Marine Corporation in Marinette, Wisconsin, on February 9, 2015.

Lay the keel is a shipbuilding term that marks the beginning of the module erection process, which is a significant undertaking that signifies the ship coming to life
Lay the keel is a shipbuilding term that marks the beginning of the module erection process, which is a significant undertaking that signifies the ship coming to life

Ship sponsor Mrs. Kate Staples Lehrer completed the time-honored tradition and authenticated the keel of Wichita (LCS-13). Mrs. Lehrer had her initials welded into a sheet of the ship’s steel, which will ultimately be mounted in the ship throughout its entire service. «This is an honor and a pleasure for me to be a sponsor of the USS Wichita», said Mrs. Lehrer. «My right hand will remain forever in a salute to those men and women who are building and to those who will serve on this special ship».

Wichita is a flexible Freedom-variant LCS that will be designed and outfitted with mission systems to conduct a variety of missions including anti-surface warfare, mine countermeasures and submarine warfare. The industry team building Wichita has delivered two ships with six others in various stages of construction and testing. The nation’s first LCS, USS Freedom, completed a U.S. Navy deployment in 2013, and USS Fort Worth (LCS-3) is currently deployed for 16 months to Southeast Asia. These two deployments demonstrate how the ship class is addressing the U.S. Navy’s need for an affordable, highly-networked and modular ship unlike any other in the world.

The industry team building Wichita has delivered two ships with six others in various stages of construction and testing
The industry team building Wichita has delivered two ships with six others in various stages of construction and testing

«This ship class, and the industry team behind it, has shown it can adapt to meet the Navy’s most challenging missions and provide a powerful, modular platform», said Joe North, vice president of Littoral Ships and Systems at Lockheed Martin. «We have leveraged best practices and incorporated improvements based on sailors’ feedback to ensure the fleet is prepared and empowered to fight, operate and support the ship in the littorals and open seas worldwide».

The Lockheed Martin-led LCS team includes ship builder Marinette Marine Corporation, a Fincantieri company, naval architect Gibbs & Cox, as well as nearly 900 suppliers in 43 states. «The LCS 13, Wichita, is a tangible measure of the collaboration and strength within this industry team», said Jan Allman, president and chief executive officer of Marinette Marine Corporation. «I’m extremely proud of our skilled workforce, the hardworking men and women that transform the LCS from a design into a powerful warship that will serve an invaluable role in the Fleet. Through Fincantieri’s expansion and improvement in our facility, Marinette Marine was tailored to grow with this program, and we look forward to continuing our valuable partnership with the U.S. Navy».

Lay the keel is a shipbuilding term that marks the beginning of the module erection process, which is a significant undertaking that signifies the ship coming to life. Modern warships are now largely built in a series of pre-fabricated, complete hull sections rather than a single keel, so the actual start of the shipbuilding process is now considered to be when the first sheet of steel is cut and is often marked with a ceremonial event.

 

The USS Fort Worth (LCS-3) is operating in the vicinity of the tail section and is supporting Indonesian-led efforts to locate the downed aircraft. (U.S. Navy video by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Antonio P. Turretto Ramos)

 

Maritime patrol

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) introduces the new generation ELI-3360 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) based on a modified Bombardier Global 5000 business-jet platform.

IAI's new generation ELI-3360 Maritime Patrol Aircraft
IAI’s new generation ELI-3360 Maritime Patrol Aircraft

Designed by IAI’s ELTA Group to provide maritime domain situational awareness and maritime superiority, the new MPA provides the most sophisticated surveillance, reconnaissance and armament systems to be installed on a business-jet to date.

The system incorporates the advanced ELTA ELM-2022 Maritime Patrol Radar, an electro-optical sensor, the ELL-8385 ESM/ELINT (Electronic Support Measures/Electronic Intelligence) system, and a comprehensive communications suite comprising radios, broadband SATCOM (Satellite Communications) and data-links as well as advanced Electronic Warfare (EW) and self-protection Suite.

The integrated multi-mission Command & Control Suite includes multi-purpose operator workstations and a weapon and stores management system, which controls the under-wing weapons that may include torpedoes and anti-ship missiles for Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Anti Surface Warfare (ASuW) as well as dispensable Search & Rescue (SAR) stores.

The new generation ELI-3360 joins IAI’s series of Special Mission Aircraft (SMA), and is based on IAI’s 30 years of experience in supplying advanced maritime domain sensors and integrated systems to leading customers worldwide. IAI’s line of business-jet SMA includes the operationally proven Gulfstream G550 Conformal Airborne Early Warning (CAEW), and the G-V Signal Intelligence Aircraft (SEMA) – the world’s first business-jet based mission aircraft.

Since IAI’s pioneering conception of business-jet SMA, the SMA market has moved steadily over the past decade towards cost-effective business jets. High endurance, speed, range and multi-mission versatility of such SMAs is unmatched by large commercial transport aircraft or turbo-props.

«IAI provides leading-edge airborne, maritime and land-based solutions for persistent maritime reconnaissance and surveillance», said Nisim Hadas, IAI Executive VP and ELTA President. «This allows our customers a choice of the right combination of ISR assets to meet their operational needs. The new business-jet based MPA, in concert with UAS and shore-based systems will provide unmatched maritime domain superiority for the benefit of our customers».

«We are delighted that IAI ELTA continues to put their confidence in the Global 5000 aircraft, relying on the platform to host its integrated mission solutions», said Stephane Villeneuve, Vice President, Specialized Aircraft, Bombardier. «With its superior operational capabilities, the Global 5000 aircraft is the ideal choice for IAI ELTA’s next generation Maritime Patrol Aircraft».

Bombardier's Global 5000 aircraft is now FAA and EASA 'steep approach certified'
Bombardier’s Global 5000 aircraft is now FAA and EASA ‘steep approach certified’

 

Bombardier Global 5000

The Global 5000 business jet is designed to deliver optimized comfort, speed and range. It is unsurpassed in its class, with superior cabin spaciousness, technologies and aesthetics. It’s extraordinary short-field and non-stop transcontinental capabilities, combined with its leading-edge flight deck reduce pilot workload and increase situational awareness giving unprecedented peace-of-mind. Grace, power and levels of performance without compromise.

 

GENERAL

Capacity

Passengers: 12 (standard configuration)

Engines

Rolls-Royce Deutschland BR710A2-20 turbofans

Thrust: 14,750 lb/6,691 kgf/65.6 kN

Flat rated to ISA + 20°C

Avionics and cabin communication

Bombardier Vision flight deck

Four Large Active Matrix Liquid Crystal Display Screens

Head-Up Display System, Enhanced Vision System and Synthetic Vision System

Graphical Flight Planning

Weather Radar with enhanced functionality like windshear detection

Latest Performance Based Navigation:

  • Wide Area Augmentation System;
  • LPV (Localizer Performance with Vertical guidance) Approach;
  • RNAV (Area Navigation), En-route RNP & RNP AR (Required Navigation Performance Authorization Required) Approaches.

Controller Pilot Data Link Communication

Onboard Maintenance System

Datalink, High Speed SATCOM

Bombardier Global 5000 aircraft boasts advanced avionics and systems technologies
Bombardier Global 5000 aircraft boasts advanced avionics and systems technologies

 

PERFORMANCE

Range*

At M 0.85:                                                     5,200 NM/9,630 km

* Theoretical range with NBAA IFR (National Business Aviation Association Instrument Flight Rules) Reserves, ISA (International Standard Atmosphere), 8 pax/3 crew. Actual range will be affected by speed, weather, selected options and other factors.

Speed

High-speed:                                                   0.88 Mach/504 KTAS*/934 km/h

Typical cruise speed:                                0.85 Mach/487 KTAS*/902 km/h

* Knots True AirSpeed

Airfield performance

Takeoff distance (SL, ISA, MTOW*):      5,540 feet/1,689 m

Landing distance (SL, ISA, MLW**):        2,670 feet/814 m

* Maximum Gross Takeoff Weight

** Maximum Landing Weight

Operating altitude

Maximum operating altitude:                    51,000 feet/15,545 m

Initial cruise altitude (MTOW):                 41,000 feet/12,497 m

 

DIMENSIONS

Exterior

Length:                                                                     96 feet 10 in/29.5 m

Wingspan:                                                              94 feet 0 in/28.7 m

Wing area:                                                              1,021 feet2/94.9 m2

Height:                                                                      25 feet 6 in/7.7 m

Interior

Cabin length:                                                         40 feet 9 in/12.41 m

(From cockpit divider to most aft cabin without baggage compartment)

Cabin width centerline:                                   7 feet 11 in/2.41 m

Cabin width floorline:                                       6 feet 6 in/1.98 m

Cabin height:                                                          6 feet 2 in/1.88 m

Weights

Maximum ramp weight:                                   92,750 lb/42,071 kg

Maximum takeoff weight:                               92,500 lb/41,957 kg

Maximum landing weight:                               78,600 lb/35,652 kg

Maximum zero fuel weight:                            58,000 lb/26,308 kg

Typical basic operating weight:                    50,861 lb/23,070 kg

Maximum fuel weight:                                        39,250 lb/17,804 kg

Maximum payload:                                               7,139 lb/3,238 kg

Their revolutionary transonic wing, designed for speed and to reduce the effect of turbulence, makes them faster and more stable than any business jet in their class
Their revolutionary transonic wing, designed for speed and to reduce the effect of turbulence, makes them faster and more stable than any business jet in their class

Four Reapers
for the Netherlands

The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Netherlands for MQ-9 Reapers and associated equipment, parts and logistical support for an estimated cost of $339 million. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale.

An MQ-9 Reaper, armed with GBU-12 Paveway II laser guided munitions and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, piloted by Col. Lex Turner flies a combat mission over southern Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force Photo / Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt)
An MQ-9 Reaper, armed with GBU-12 Paveway II laser guided munitions and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, piloted by Col. Lex Turner flies a combat mission over southern Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force Photo / Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt)

The Government of the Netherlands has requested a possible sale of:

  • 4 MQ-9 Block 5 Reaper Remotely Piloted Aircraft;
  • 4 Mobile Ground Control Stations Block 30 (option Block 50);
  • 6 Honeywell TPE331-10T Turboprop Engines (4 installed and 2 spares);
  • 2 SATCOM Earth Terminal Sub-System;
  • 6 AN/DAS-1 Multi-Spectral Targeting Systems (MTS)-B;
  • 4 General Atomics Lynx (exportable) Synthetic Aperture Radar/Ground Moving;
  • Target Indicator (SAR/GMTI) Systems, w/Maritime Wide Area Search capability;
  • 2 Ruggedized Aircraft Maintenance Test Stations;
  • 20 ARC-210 RT-1939 Radio Systems;
  • 8 KY-1006 Common Crypto Modules;
  • 8 Ku-band Link-Airborne Communications Systems;
  • 4 KIV-77 Mode 4/5 Identification Friend or Foe;
  • 4 AN/APX-119 Mode 4/5 Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) Transponder (515 Model);
  • 14 Honeywell H-764 Adaptive Configurable Embedded Global Positioning System/Inertial Guidance Units (EGI) with Selective Availability Anti-Spoofing Module (SAASM) (12 installed and 2 spares).

Also provided are an Initial Spares Package (ISP) and Readiness Spares Package (RSP) to support 3400 Flight Hours for a three year period, support and test equipment, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. Government and contractor engineering, technical and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistical and program support. The estimated cost is $339 million.

The Netherlands is one of the major political and economic powers in Europe and NATO and an ally of the United States in the pursuit of peace and stability. It is vital to the U.S. national interest to assist the Netherlands to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defense capability. This potential sale will enhance the Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) capability of the Dutch military in support of national, NATO, UN-mandated, and other coalition operations. Commonality of ISR capabilities will greatly increase interoperability between U.S. and Dutch military and peacekeeping forces.

The Netherlands requests this capability to provide for the defense of its deployed troops, regional security, and interoperability with the U.S. The proposed sale will improve the Netherland’s capability to meet current and future threats by providing improved Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance coverage that promotes increased battlefield situational awareness, anticipates enemy intent, augments combat search and rescue, and provides ground troop support. The Netherlands will have no difficulty absorbing this additional capability into its armed forces.

The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region. The principal contractor will be General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. in San Diego, California. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale. Implementation of this proposed sale may require U.S. contractor representatives to make multiple trips to the Netherlands and potentially to deployed locations to provide initial launch, recovery, and maintenance support. There will be no adverse impact on U.S. defense readiness as a result of this proposed sale. This notice of a potential sale is required by law and does not mean the sale has been concluded.

A maintenance Airman inspects an MQ-9 Reaper in Afghanistan Oct. 1. Capable of striking enemy targets with on-board weapons, the Reaper has conducted close air support and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. (Courtesy photo)
A maintenance Airman inspects an MQ-9 Reaper in Afghanistan Oct. 1. Capable of striking enemy targets with on-board weapons, the Reaper has conducted close air support and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. (Courtesy photo)

 

MQ-9 Reaper

Designated as MQ-9 Reaper by its U.S. Air Force and Royal Air Force customers, the turboprop-powered, multi-mission Predator B Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) was developed with GA-ASI funding and provides significantly greater capabilities than Predator. First flown in 2001, Predator B is a highly sophisticated development built on the experience gained with GA-ASI’s battle-proven Predator UAS and a major evolutionary leap in overall performance and reliability.

Featuring unmatched operational flexibility, the multi-mission Predator B has an endurance of over 27 hours, speeds of 240 KTAS (Knots True AirSpeed)/276 mph/444 km/h, can operate up to 50,000 feet/15,240 m, and has a 3,850 lbs (1,746 kg) payload capacity that includes 3,000 lbs (1,361 kg) of external stores. Twice as fast as Predator, it carries 500% more payload and has nine times the horsepower. Predator B provides a long-endurance, persistent surveillance/strike capability for the war fighter.

An extremely reliable aircraft, it is equipped with a fault-tolerant flight control system and triple redundant avionics system architecture. Predator B is engineered to meet and exceed manned aircraft reliability standards.

Predator B is powered by the flight-certified and proven Honeywell TPE331-10 turboprop engine, integrated with Digital Electronic Engine Control (DEEC), which significantly improves engine performance and fuel efficiency, particularly at low altitudes.

The Predator B multi-mission aircraft is highly modular and is easily configured with a variety of payloads to meet mission requirements. Predator B is capable of carrying multiple mission payloads to include: Electro-Optical/Infrared (EO/IR), Lynx Multi-mode Radar, multi-mode maritime surveillance radar, Electronic Support Measures (ESM), laser designators, and various weapons packages.

Aircrews perform a preflight check on an MQ-9 Reaper before it takes off on a mission in Afghanistan Oct. 1. The Reaper is larger and more heavily-armed than the MQ-1 Predator and attacks time-sensitive targets with persistence and precision, to destroy or disable those targets. (Courtesy photo)
Aircrews perform a preflight check on an MQ-9 Reaper before it takes off on a mission in Afghanistan Oct. 1. The Reaper is larger and more heavily-armed than the MQ-1 Predator and attacks time-sensitive targets with persistence and precision, to destroy or disable those targets. (Courtesy photo)

 

Characteristics

Wing Span:                                      66 feet/20 m

Length:                                              36 feet/11m

Height:                                               12.5 feet/3.8 m

Powerplant:                                    Honeywell TPE 331-10

Thrust:                                                900 shaft horsepower maximum

Weight:                                              4,900 pounds/2,223 kg empty

Max Gross Takeoff Weight:  10,500 lbs/4,763 kg

Fuel Capacity:                                3,900 lbs/1,769 kg

Payload Capacity:

850 lbs internal/386 kg

3,000 lbs external/1,361 kg

Cruise speed:                                  around 200 knots/230 mph/370 km/h

Range:                                                1,000 NM/1,150 miles/1,850 km

Ceiling:                                               Up to 50,000 feet/15,240 m

Weapons:

Hellfire missiles

GBU-12 laser-guided bombs

GBU-38 JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition)

GBU-49 laser-JDAM

Payloads:

MTS-B EO/IR (Electro-Optical/Infrared)

Lynx Multi-mode Radar

Multi-mode maritime radar

Automated Identification

System (AIS, Aeronautical Information Service)

SIGINT/ESM (Electronic Support Measures) system

Communications relay

Power:                                               11.0 kW/45.0 kVA (Block5) (redundant)

An MQ-9 Reaper sits on a ramp in Afghanistan Oct. 1. The Reaper is launched, recovered and maintained at deployed locations, while being remotely operated by pilots and sensor operators at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. (Courtesy photo)
An MQ-9 Reaper sits on a ramp in Afghanistan Oct. 1. The Reaper is launched, recovered and maintained at deployed locations, while being remotely operated by pilots and sensor operators at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. (Courtesy photo)

 

Features:

  • Triple-redundant flight control system
  • Redundant flight control surfaces
  • Remotely piloted or fully autonomous
  • MIL-STD-1760 stores management system
  • Seven external stations for carriage of payloads
  • C-Band line-of-sight data link control
  • Ku-Band beyond line-of-sight/SATCOM data link control
  • Over 90% system operational availability
  • C-130 transportable (or self-deploys)

 

 

$1 million per launch

Through its Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) program, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has been developing new concepts and architectures to get small satellites into orbit more economically on short notice. Bradford Tousley, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, provided an update on ALASA at the 18th Annual Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)’s Commercial Space Transportation Conference in Washington, D.C. Tousley discussed several key accomplishments of the program to date, including successful completion of Phase 1 design, selection of the Boeing Company as prime contractor for Phase 2 of the program, which includes conducting 12 orbital test launches of an integrated prototype system.

The ALASA launch vehicle would be attached under the Boeing F-15 military aircraft operating on a regular runway
The ALASA launch vehicle would be attached under the Boeing F-15 military aircraft operating on a regular runway

«We’ve made good progress so far toward ALASA’s ambitious goal of propelling 100-pound (45 kg) microsatellites into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) within 24 hours of call-up, all for less than $1 million per launch», Tousley said. «We’re moving ahead with rigorous testing of new technologies that we hope one day could enable revolutionary satellite launch systems that provide more affordable, routine and reliable access to space».

The 24-foot (7.3-meter) ALASA vehicle is designed to attach under an F-15E aircraft. Once the airplane reaches approximately 40,000 feet (12,192 meters), it would release the ALASA vehicle. The vehicle would then fire its four main engines and launch into Low Earth Orbit to deploy one or more microsatellites weighing up to a total of 100 pounds (45 kilograms).

Launches of microsatellites for the Department of Defense (DoD) or other government agencies require scheduling years in advance for the few available slots at the nation’s limited number of launch locations. This slow, expensive process is causing a bottleneck in placing essential space assets in orbit. The current ALASA design envisions launching a low-cost, expendable launch vehicle from conventional aircraft. Serving as a reusable first stage, the plane would fly to high altitude and release the launch vehicle, which would carry the payload to the desired location.

«ALASA seeks to overcome the limitations of current launch systems by streamlining design and manufacturing and leveraging the flexibility and re-usability of an air-launched system», said Mitchell Burnside Clapp, DARPA program manager for ALASA. «We envision an alternative to ride-sharing for microsatellites that enables satellite owners to launch payloads from any location into orbits of their choosing, on schedules of their choosing, on a launch vehicle designed specifically for small payloads».

ALASA had a successful Phase 1, which resulted in three viable system designs. In March 2014, DARPA awarded Boeing the prime contract for Phase 2 of ALASA.

Because reducing cost per flight to $1 million presents such a challenge, DARPA is attacking the cost equation on multiple fronts. The Phase 2 design incorporates commercial-grade avionics and advanced composite structures. Perhaps the most daring technology ALASA seeks to implement is a new high-energy monopropellant, which aims to combine fuel and oxidizer into a single liquid. If successful, the monopropellant would enable simpler designs and reduced manufacturing and operation costs compared to traditional designs that use two liquids, such as liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.

Once the aircraft is airborne, the ALASA launch vehicle would drop away, fire its engines and launch small satellites into Low Earth Orbit
Once the aircraft is airborne, the ALASA launch vehicle would drop away, fire its engines and launch small satellites into Low Earth Orbit

ALASA also aims to reduce infrastructure costs by using runways instead of fixed vertical launch sites, automating operations and avoiding unnecessary services. Phase 1 of the program advanced toward that goal by making progress on three breakthrough enabling technologies:

  • Mission-planning software that would streamline current processes for satellite launches;
  • Space-based telemetry that would use existing satellites instead of ground-based facilities to monitor the ALASA vehicle;
  • Automatic flight-termination systems that would assess real-time conditions during flight and end it if necessary.

DARPA plans to continue developing these capabilities in Phase 2 and, once they’re sufficiently mature, intends to eventually transition them to government and/or commercial partners for wider use in the space community.

Pending successful testing of the new monopropellant, the program plan includes 12 orbital launches to test the integrated ALASA prototype system. Currently, DARPA plans to conduct the first ALASA flight demonstration test in late 2015 and the first orbital launch test in the first half of 2016. Depending on test results, the program would conduct up to 11 further demonstration launches through summer 2016.

If successful, ALASA would provide convenient, cost-effective launch capabilities for the growing government and commercial markets for small satellites. «Small satellites in the ALASA payload class represent the fastest-growing segment of the space launch market, and DARPA expects this growth trend to continue as small satellites become increasingly more capable», Burnside Clapp said. «The small-satellite community is excited about having dedicated launch opportunities, and there should be no difficulty finding useful payloads».