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US Army launches initiatives aimed at improving missile arsenal

Douglas Barrie/LONDON

The US Army has launched a raft of weapons initiatives aimed at improving its short-range air-defence and air-launched anti-armour guided weapons, as well as extended-range high-precision guided munitions.

The US Army Aviation and Missile Command has programmes under way to develop improved variants and potential successors to the Raytheon Stinger short-range surface-to- air/air-to-air missile and to the current generation of Lockheed Martin Hellfire anti-tank missiles.

The Army is working on the Modernized Hellfire, with the main emphasis being on the development of a dual mode seeker.

The Army's Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center (MRDEC) will demonstrate an improved seeker that remains "compatible with current and future Hellfire airframes", says the centre's associate director for technology Paul Jacobs.

The US Army has previously considered a combined imaging infrared and millimetre wave (MMW) seeker, but this was ruled out on cost grounds. Jacobs says the target cost is 25% that of the present Hellfire II MMW seeker.

The Army is also close to flight testing an improved Stinger intended to "-make the missile functional in clutter", and based around an IIR seeker.

The IIR seeker uses a 128 x 128 focal plane array with improved tracking algorithms.

The US Army has been unconvinced about using the Stinger missile in the air-to-air role as a helicopter self-defence weapon because of the seeker's limited performance in dealing with low-altitude clutter.

The Army is also looking at a 512 x 512 array for application on a TOW-sized missile body. This multi-role weapon would have a 4.6km (2.5nm) line-of-sight range and an indirect fire range of 16km. In the latter mode, guidance updates could be provided by means of a datalink. The Army is also working on the Compact Hypervelocity Kinetic Energy Missile (CKEM) which builds on its hypervelocity Line Of Sight Anti-Tank (LOSAT) project.

Jacobs says the MRDEC is working on reducing the length of the LOSAT from 2.7m to 1.8m, while increasing its velocity to 433,000ft/min (2,200m/s). The latter has already been achieved with a LOSAT airframe using four strap-on boosters.

The CKEM project is intended to provide technologies for a "dual role close combat and short range air defence hypervelocity guided kinetic energy weapon," according to Jacobs.