The US Navy has demonstrated the capability of a modified Boeing SLAM-ER stand-off land attack missile to engage a moving ground target, such as a Scud missile launcher. It could become operational with a field software upload within six to nine months, says Boeing.

The capability exploits the recently fielded upgrade enabling the SLAM-ER to engage moving ships. The missile was originally developed to attack fixed land targets, and has an imaging-infrared seeker and a datalink enabling man-in-the-loop target identification and aimpoint selection.

The moving-target upgrade allows the controlling aircraft to receive target position updates from a sensor platform via Link 16 network and pass them to the SLAM-ER via the missile's datalink. The seeker acquires and tracks the moving target. The pilot can confirm the target or take control of the missile using the SLAM-ER's stop-motion aimpoint update feature.

A demonstration was conducted at the US Navy's China Lake, California, test range. "The key issue was getting the Link 16 data to pass through the pod to the missile," says Jim O'Neill, Boeing general manager for navy missile systems. The missile was captive-carried by a Boeing F/A-18C and the target was an 18-wheel tractor-trailer moving at 65km/h (40mph). A flight test involving missile launch is planned for mid-year.

Moving-target capability requires software upgrades to the aircraft and missile, which could be fielded with the 2005 update of the F/A-18's operational flight programme, or within months through a field upgrade, says O'Neill. The SLAM-ER is also cleared on US Navy Lockheed P-3s and S-3s and has been ordered by South Korea for Boeing F-15Ks.

Source: Flight International