Raytheon and Israeli guided weapons specialist Rafael have signed a co-operation agreement to market the latter’s Sparrow series of targets to the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and other countries.
According to US sources, the MDA plans to launch Rafael’s Blue Sparrow target from a converted Lockheed L-1011, to simulate a salvo of ballistic missile threats during a test of Raytheon SM-3 missiles from a US Navy Aegis-class destroyer. The modified airliner would be capable of launching up to four targets simultaneously.
Equipped with GPS/INS navigation, the 1.8t Blue Sparrow has a post-boost phase three-axis attitude control system and mid-air pointing capability, which enables it to simulate the deployment of bulk chemical or high-explosive warheads by a ballistic missile.
The USA will also evaluate the potential use of other Sparrow-series targets for future intercept tests, sources say.
Rafael’s current target range was launched in the 1990s, when the Black Sparrow (above) was developed to support the Israel Aerospace Industries Arrow 1 ballistic missile defence system. Based on its Popeye air-to-surface missile, the 1.4t design was capable of simulating a "Scud-B" threat.
A new Silver Sparrow design is now in development to test the performance of Israel’s Arrow 3 interceptor, with the target to weigh 3.2t and measure 8m (26.2ft) in overall length.