Raytheon has been awarded a low-rate initial production (LRIP) contract by the US Air Force to start manufacturing its miniature air-launched decoy (MALD), the company announced yesterday.
The previously-unannounced contract was signed in June and Raytheon hopes to begin production next month.
MALD is designed to be fired by strike aircraft approaching a target area to ‘stimulate’ enemy air defence radars and multiply the number of targets they have to track and potentially deal with. Initial MALDs will operate purely in the decoy role, but later versions will have a jamming payload.
The missile weighs less than 133kg (300lb) and has a range of approximately 925km (500nm).
Its development has involved 42 test flights, of which 40 were successful, says Michael Spencer, MALD business development senior manager. “This included powered and unpowered tests and captive carry tests.”
There is no indication of the total number of rounds the US Air Force may eventually procure, but Raytheon anticipates a full-rate production contract later this year and will produce 150 units in a first production lot, with ‘asset availability’ by the last quarter of 2009.
As part of a plan to incrementally improve MALD, Raytheon is funding additional captive carry test flights on a T-39 Sabreliner at the China Lake test range to demonstrate a datalink capability in the missile.
Spencer says there has been international interest in the decoy from among “our closest allies” although he declines to specify individual nations. Potentially, foreign customers could fit their own electronic warfare package in the missile.