Raytheon uses AIM-9X seeker for ballistic missile intercept [CORRECTION]

Washington DC
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[Corrects Aerojet as supplier for second-stage booster rocket.]

Raytheon scored a direct hit during a 3 December seeker test for a new air-launched, anti-ballistic missile weapon dubbed the Network-Centric Airborne Defense Element (NCADE), which is on track for operational service after 2009.

The live-fire test was intended to prove that the NCADE seeker - derived from Raytheon's AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile - can discriminate between the threat missile's plume and body. The company says the seeker performed this function, but also intercepted the target.

Last year, Raytheon's partner Aerojet successfully demonstrated the missile's second-stage booster rocket, and a third test planned for 2009 will combine the seeker and booster in the NCADE's designated airframe - a modified Raytheon AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missile.

Raytheon intends to deliver 20 NCADE's to the US Missile Defense Agency at the end of the development programme. These could be integrated on the Boeing F-15, Lockheed Martin F-16 and General Atomics' MQ-9A Reaper unmanned air vehicle, which could use the missiles to fire on short- and medium-range ballistic missiles during their boost or ascent phase.