Raytheon has conducted the first flight test of a weapon favoured to replace the US Army's Crusader artillery system, which the US Department of Defense is planning to cancel. The test validated the flight performance of the loitering attack missile (LAM) under development for the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's NetFires technology demonstration.

Under the NetFires programme, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon are working on beyond-line-of-sight missiles for the US Army's Future Combat System (FCS). In addition to the loitering hunter-killer LAM, the companies are developing a direct-attack variant, the precision attack missile (PAM). Both 45kg (100lb)-class weapons will be fired vertically from a container launch unit that can be vehicle-mounted or left unattended, receiving targeting data and launch commands via the FCS network.

In the June test, Raytheon's LAM prototype was released at 4,000ft (1,200m) and low speed from an Aurora Flight Sciences' Cessna O-2 carrier aircraft. It travelled 50km (27nm) in an autonomous loiter pattern. At the end of its 12min mission, the missile flew to a safe location and deployed a parachute for a soft landing. The weapon is powered by a 30lb-thrust (0.13kN) Hamilton Sundstrand TJ30 turbojet, giving it a loiter capability of at least 30min.

While Raytheon's LAM has an imaging infrared seeker, Lockheed Martin's uses a laser radar. Both missiles downlink seeker images to allow the operator to confirm the target or redirect the missile and perform battle damage assessment. The 50km-range PAM variant will be powered by a variable-thrust rocket motor under development by Aerojet, and will be fitted with a dual-mode seeker and multimode warhead.

Source: Flight International