Raytheon is to begin the next stage of development for the US Air Force's first stand-in jammer platform, scheduled to enter operational service after 2013.
Under an $80.2 million contract announced on 31 March, the company will launch the second phase of risk reduction for the jammer variant of the Miniature Air-Launched Decoy, called MALD-J.
The USAF wants the vehicle to launch against pre-planned targets, jamming the radars of an integrated air defence system before friendly aircraft are detected. The same vehicle, which is intended to be unrecoverable, also must function as a decoy.
Along with an upgrade for the USAF's Lockheed Martin EC-130 Compass Call fleet, MALD-J is all that remains of the service's once-vaunted concept for an airborne electronic attack "systems of systems", which emerged in 2002.
The MALD-J and the now-cancelled Joint Unmanned Combat Air System would have performed the stand-in jamming role, while the aborted Boeing B-52 Stand-off Jammer System (SOJS) would have been aimed at blocking an enemy's long-range early warning radars. The US Navy's Boeing EA-18G Growler, meanwhile, is moving forward in the "escort jamming" role.
The SOJS may be revived in a proposed new programme called the Core Component Jammer, which has already drawn a teaming agreement between Boeing and Northrop Grumman.
The USAF originally planned to launch development of the MALD-J in 2006, but instead opted to stretch out the schedule by introducing a two-phase risk-reduction effort. Raytheon declined to comment on its latest MALD-J award.