Boeing and Raytheon have won seedling contracts to define requirements for a new kind of aerial weapon for the US Air Force that uses high-power microwave (HPM) beams instead of explosives.
Both companies received separate contracts worth less than $1 million each in early September from the USAF Air Armament Centre (AAC) for an "NKCE" concept.
Neither company could clarify what NKCE means, but the AAC issued a request for proposals last May for technical information to support the development of a "non-kinetic counter electronics" capability.
"It is envisioned that the NKCE capability will require an aerial delivery platform for operational flexibility and desired capability to engage multiple targets per mission," says the AAC acquisition notice.
The new weapon will be used to disrupt or destroy "electronic equipment deep in the enemy's infrastructure", it adds.
The NKCE concept emerges as Boeing continues to develop an airborne demonstrator called the counter-electronics high-power microwave advanced missile project (CHAMP). The $38 million demonstrator is funded by the Air Force Research Laboratory, and includes ground and flight demonstrations to run through 2012.
The HPM source for the CHAMP missile demonstrator is supplied by a New Mexico-based company called Ktech Corp. Sandia National Laboratories is providing the pulse power system.