The Air Force Research Laboratory is starting work on a new sensor called SITES. This is a highly interesting development, but to explain why will take some doing. Here goes:
- The US Air Force now uses a medium range missile -- Raytheon AIM-120C/D Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile (AMRAAM) -- and a short-range missile -- the Raytheon AIM-9M/X Sidewinder
- Both products came of age in the era of disco, 8-tracks and 2:1 kill ratios for US fighters. Both are being phased out of production sometime in the next decade, and not too soon
- The air force is finally getting started with a replacement program, with a single weapon to replace both that is called the Joint Dual Role Air Dominance Missile (JDRADM)
- The immediate effort is known as the Air Dominance Integrating Concept (ADIC), which is the umbrella program for creating the component technologies that should eventually form the JDRADM, which doesn't enter formal development until around 2013
- Under ADIC is a program called SITES, which stands for Seeker Integrated Target Endgame Sensor
I hope that's clear.
Now, the really cool thing about this new seeker is that will come with a special feature. Conventional seekers do just -- and only -- that: seek for targets, which includes detection and selection of an aim point for the warhead. The SITES will do all that plus serve as the fuze. This is not going to be easy, given the trouble US defense contractors seem to have with mastering conventional fuse technology.
Click here for the document that the air force released last month describing SITES.
Click here for budget documents on JDRADM. There's only about $10 million over the next two years, but, hey, you have to start somewhere.