January meeting will determine whether to develop surrogate or choose Russian target
The US Navy has scheduled a key committee meeting in January to evaluate whether to proceed with efforts to acquire Russian NPO Mashinostroyenhe P-900 "Alfa" supersonic sea-skimming missiles for conversion to new-generation targets or proceed with the development of its own surrogate target.
The planned meeting comes in the wake of the service finalising late last month additional studies of a surrogate target combining the airframe and powerplant of the Raytheon BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missile with a supersonic final stage derived from either the Raytheon SM-2 Medium Range 2+ or Hawk MIM-23B missiles.
The latest studies have examined how the expected performance of the P-900 - which the USN has given the non-classified designation "Threat D" - and the two surrogate target models compare with the detection and tracking capabilities of the baseline 6.0 version of the USN's Aegis anti-air warfare system.
Richard Lockhart, deputy director of developmental test and evaluation in the office of the US undersecretary of defence for acquisition, technology and logistics, told a recent targets conference that the USN urgently needed a Threat D-type target to ensure successful testing of the new Raytheon SM-6S standard missile.
Similar studies are now under way replicating the comparison against the USN's ship self-defence system.
Last month Capt Steve Shergrud, head of the USN's Ranges and Fleet Training Branch, told the US National Defence Industrial Association's annual targets and ranges conference in Charleston, South Carolina that the two Tomahawk hybrids now being studied followed evaluation of "30 active missiles", with these including the Raytheon Patriot.
Meanwhile, Boeing is confident that it can resolve ongoing delays to conclude a deal with Russia to allow release of an additional 41 Zvezda-Strela KH-31 supersonic sea-skimming missiles for conversion to MA-31 targets for the USN.
PETER LA FRANCHI / LONDON
Source: Flight International