Qinetiq has successfully completed "hardware-in-the-loop" testing of its phased-array missile seeker, in what it believes is the first test of its kind. It hopes continued testing could lead to applications early in the next decade.

Whereas conventional radar sensor antennas are mechanically steered within the missile to maintain radio-frequency (RF) energy on the target, the phased-array sensor is strapped down to the missile and steers its energy electronically.

In closed-loop tests, Qinetiq demonstrated that the passive phased-array sensor could achieve the basic functions required to guide a missile to its target. The testing was conducted in the UK Ministry of Defence's (MoD) Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) at Farnborough, one of the largest mechanical array facilities of its kind.

Qinetiq's future systems technology group says the seeker successfully tracked simulated static, constant cross-range and accelerating targets.

Chris Alder, product area manager in Qinetiq's sensors and electronics division, says one of the main advantages of phased-array seekers is their considerably greater resistance to electronic countermeasures. "We see a move towards phased-array seekers for all applications within about 20 years," he says.

Alder says sensor ruggedisation and industrialisation are key drivers in the programme. "Seekers today typically make up about a third of a missile's cost," he adds. The elimination of moving parts in the seeker would reduce costs significantly.

The testing is part of UK MoD-funded seeker development and was conducted with AMS's Radar Systems Division, which helped develop the hardware.

Source: Flight International