Ramon Lopez/EGLIN AFB

Risk reduction work on the Miniature Munition Capability (MMC) being carried out at the US Air Force Research Laboratory's Munitions Directorate will be part of a USAF programme review in December.

Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon have contracts from the Eglin AFB-based Air Armaments Center to support an MMC analysis of alternatives. MMC builds on Boeing's Small Smart Bomb (SSB) and the powered Lockheed Martin Low Cost Autonomous Attack System (LOCAAS) programmes.

The plan is to develop a 114kg (250lb) munition that is effective against fixed sites, missile batteries, bridges and other targets that were previously only vulnerable to weapons in the 900kg class.

The four companies are to report next September, after which the USAF will decide whether to launch an MMC acquisition from fiscal year 2002. The weapon would enter service five years later.

Col Harry Dutchyshyn, head of the munitions directorate, says SSB research is directed at developing and testing components for miniaturised precision-guided missiles. The research builds upon a Boeing demonstration of a 114kg smart bomb with a 19km (10nm) range, he adds.

Boeing has teamed with Alenia Marconi Systems to integrate the Diamond Back wing kit and to fly three SSB range extension trials next June. Range could be increased to 93km.

The LOCAAS is a lightweight submunition with a laser radar (LADAR) terminal seeker that allows it to attack mobile targets. Programme officials say the 50lb (0.22kN)-thrust Hamilton Sundstrand TJ-50 turbojet that powers the LOCAAS is too large for an operational weapon. They are working to develop an appropriate powerplant, they add.

In August, the LOCAAS LADAR was tested during 17 captive flight tests. The trial data from the tests is being used to develop algorithms for high-probability target identification.

Further seeker testing is under way at Redstone Arsenal, and windtunnel tests of the LOCAAS air vehicle continue. Powered LOCAAS flight tests are to start in December next year as part of the $33 million technology demonstration that runs until the end of 2001.

Source: Flight International