Raytheon has completed flight tests on the US Air Force's ADM-160B Miniature Air-Launched Decoy (MALD), clearing the way for a decision on low-rate initial production.
The expendable, turbojet-powered MALD is designed to be launched from aircraft including the Boeing B-52 bomber and Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter to disrupt enemy air defences ahead of a strike package.
The MALD scored 33 successes in 35 flights from the B-52 and F-16 during development testing, says Raytheon missile systems business development manager Michael Spencer. The company will deliver another 12 air vehicles for operational testing under a $16.1 million contract awarded in January, he says.
"We have completed flight testing, and testing of the decoy payload," says Spencer. A Milestone C decision on proceeding into low-rate production is expected "in a couple of months", he says.
Flight profiles preprogrammed before a mission can enable a small group of MALDs to mimic the behaviour and signatures of a strike package, to provoke enemy air defences into engaging the decoys.
The 115kg (250lb) folding-wing MALD is designed to be integrated on to "smart" or "dumb" aircraft - respectively those with or without the 1760 digital weapons databus.
The decoys can be carried by almost any aircraft - "if it can carry a 500lb bomb, it can carry a MALD," says Spencer - but those with 1760 can reprogram the navigation waypoints before launch.
Raytheon has demonstrated a datalink capability that allows the decoy to be reprogrammed in flight, after launch, says Spencer. A version of MALD carrying a jammer payload is under development.