Raytheon has won an $88 million US Air Force contract to develop the miniature air-launched decoy (MALD), which will be fired from strike aircraft to confuse enemy air defences. The decision is a blow for Northrop Grumman, which built the MALD technology demonstrator tested in the late 1990s. Boeing and Lockheed Martin also bid for the contract.

Raytheon's MALD is a 90kg (200lb) vehicle, 2.92m (9.6ft) long with a 1.52m-span wing, powered by a 120lb-thrust (0.5kN) Hamilton Sundstrand TJ120 turbojet. An electronic payload will allow the expendable vehicle to mimic the radar cross-section of the launch aircraft as it flies a preprogrammed path, to "stimulate, decoy and/or saturate" air defences. A Boeing B-52 bomber will carry up to 16 MALDs and a Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter will carry four.

USAFMALD acquisition strategy project lead Lt Wells Littlefield says the MALD will cruise at Mach 0.8-0.9 for 45min at 35,000ft and M0.7-0.8 for 20min at 3,000ft - Raytheon's winning "swing wing" design optimising the sweep of the pop-out wing for the mission profile. The avionics will come from Raytheon's Paveway and EGBU-15 precision-guided weapons.

Flight testing is to begin in the fourth quarter of 2006, leading to a production readiness review in the first quarter of 2008.

The US Air Force plans to buy 1,500 decoys, at a projected unit cost somewhere between $75,000 and $125,000. A "Spiral 2" jamming version of the expendable MALD is also planned, but is not funded, says Littlefield.


Source: Flight International