DARPA’s T3: Rise of the triple-role missile

Missiles are getting awfully tricky. It was hard enough to develop a missile that can do one thing reliably well. Now the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency wants to develop a single missile that can perform three different missions.

Depending on the target, today’s missiles offer a choice between anti-aircraft (AMRAAM), anti-radiation (HARM) and anti-cruise-missile (AERAM).

DARPA’s triple target terminator (T3) program, awarded to Raytheon on October 22, could replace all three. Few details about T3 have been released, but Raytheon is expected to perform a T3 flight demonstration in 2014.

That’s shortly before the US Air Force plans to launch full-scale development of a dual-role (think AMRAAM + HARM) air dominance missile.

While Raytheon pursues DARPA’s T3, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has funded Boeing to develop three enabling technologies for JDRADM. The MR ROKM program is developing essentially a shaped-charge warhead for the missile. The SITES program is integrating the guidance sensor and fuse mechanism. And, finally, DRADM-T is developing thrust-vectored controls for the rocket technology.

It’s still not clear if T3 and JDRADM technologies could eventually be blended into a production missile, or if they are intended to be competitors. There may be other ideas in the black world. I attended a strange press conference at the Farnborough air show in 2008. Three companies — ATK, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman — formed an alliance to pursue dual-role missiles, but steadfastly declined to clarify the potential program.


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