The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) is "involved in discussions" with Teledyne Ryan Aeronautical Systems and the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) over potential participation in the Miniature Air-Launched Decoy (MALD) programme.

The MALD is a small, jet-powered unmanned air vehicle, which will be launched as a tactical decoy mostly by fighter aircraft such as the Lockheed Martin F-16 and McDonnell Douglas F-15 and F-18. Although relatively small with only a 100mm wingspan and a total length of 360mm, the MALD generates the same radar image as does a full-scale aircraft.

Although details of the UK's discussions are not known, it is possible that the MALD would suit the Royal Air Force's requirements to upgrade the Panavia Tornado GR4 for suppression of enemy defences. Another potential candidate aircraft would be the Eurofighter EF2000.

Teledyne Ryan says that "-the UK MoD seems very interested in MALD. They are involved in discussions towards participation in the ACTD [advanced-concept technology demonstration)] in some way." Teledyne Ryan was formally awarded the $24.4 million ACTD contract on 5 November, which covers the construction of up to 32 MALDs over a 30-month period. "In addition, a major thrust of the ACTD effort is for Teledyne Ryan Aeronautical Systems to deliver a MALD production proposal at the contracts end," says the San Diego, California-based company. The proposal will be for a MALD with a unit flyaway price of "less than, or equal to, $30,000".

A core component of the MALD is the tiny 0.2kN (50lb)-thrust turbojet, developed by Sundstrand Power Systems of San Diego as a follow-on to the DARPA small-engine advanced programme. Contractor flight-tests are due to be run from August-December 1998. Customer flight-tests are scheduled to be run from January-April 1999.

The MALD is also designed to be compatible with the Rockwell B-1B, the Joint Strike Fighter and the Lockheed Boeing F-22.

Source: Flight International