Northrop Grumman believes it would be possible to give the US military the stand-off capability to destroy small mobile ground and maritime targets within a year of a procurement go-ahead following progress in the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)-funded Affordable Moving Surface Target Engagement (AMSTE) demonstration.

DARPA is two years into a three-year, $50 million AMSTE demonstration that has included six weapon drops. The most recent were the simultaneous drop of two Boeing Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs). "We're doing very well tracking cars in a convoy and recently successfully targeted two vans in a convoy of five vehicles...We believe within nine to 12 months we could have a capability in the field," says Bill McCall, Northrop Grumman AMSTE programme manager.

AMSTE is designed to use ground moving target indicator information from current and future platforms, such as Northrop Grumman's E-8C JSTARS and RQ-4A Global Hawk and the Lockheed Martin F-35, to datalink near continuous updates on the position of mobile targets.

Northrop Grumman envisages producing kits to equip JDAM and Raytheon's AGM-154 Joint Stand-Off Weapon (JSOW) for under $12,000 each, depending on the datalink fitted. Link 16 has been fitted to JSOW, but a smaller and lighter version is needed, or alternatively a UHF network radio with anti-jam capability.

"Link 16 has proliferated within NATO, but in its present form is not inexpensive or small. UHF is small and inexpensive, but unique in that only a fraction of the inventory uses it," says McCall.

DARPA AMSTE programme manager Chuck Taylor says a series of increasingly more complex tests is planned including tracking targets among multiple vehicles overtaking and stopping at intersections, as well as naval tests.

Source: Flight International