Raytheon will begin manufacturing and testing a new version of the miniature air-launched decoy (MALD) designed to penetrate hostile airspace and jam radars within range of surface-to-air missiles.

A $48.9 million contract announced on 6 May launches the engineering, manufacturing and design phase for the US Air Force programme. By the end of 2012, Raytheon's MALD-J is expected to enter service after completing a series of free flight and captive carry tests.

The MALD-J is launched by a fighter, bomber or unmanned aircraft system, flies up to about 925km (500nm) and weighs up to 136kg (300lb).

MALD-J is the air force's only option to field a "stand-in" jammer against radar threats. It is derived from the baseline MALD, which is designed to spoof radars.

Raytheon envisages that US military demand for decoys and jammers will drive sales for thousands of MALDs and MALD-Js, says missile systems business development manager Michael Spencer.

So far, the MALD-J has completed two free flights testing both the flight controls and jammer payload, he says.

The USAF, meanwhile, is mulling over the idea of investing in a power upgrade for the jammer. An option to install a datalink was declined, Spencer says.

Source: Flight International