Killing tactical ballistic missiles so that explosive, biological or radioactive debris fall near a foe’s launch sites is a key problem for those mapping out defenses in an era of proliferating, short-range missiles and long-range rockets.

New concepts are taking two forms—striking enemy missiles while they are still in space, or destroying them in the first minute or two after launch. And it is becoming glaringly apparent that the solutions are different if the foe is nearby or far away.

Israel, for example, does not have a weapon that can be launched from an aircraft to catch enemy missiles when they are most vulnerable as slow and very bright targets during the first few minutes of flight.

The Israelis flirted with air-launched boost-phase intercept (BPI) in their MOAB UAV/missile program of the 1990s, and the U.S. had a parallel Raptor/Talon project. But both projects were shelved to await technology advances, including more energetic rocket motors, satellite-based battle management and smaller, lighter missile designs.

However, operational introduction into the Israeli arsenal of the advanced Arrow 3 interceptor missile and the Stunner interceptor for the David’s Sling system may open the door to a period of rapid development for air-launched weapons that can be carried by unmanned aircraft.

The Stunner interceptor, designed and built by Rafael in a cooperative program with Raytheon, is a low-cost design that targets threats such as cruise missiles, medium- and long-range artillery rockets and short-range ballistic missiles. It has two stages: The first is a solid-fuel, rocket motor booster; the second is a curious asymmetrical kill vehicle with advanced steering for increased agility. A three-pulse motor provides additional thrust at critical moments of flight. A multi-mode sensor package—electro-optical and millimeter wave, electronically scanned array radar—provides all-weather performance against small, maneuvering targets. The Stunner is larger than Raytheon’s AIM-120 medium-range air-to-air missile but smaller than the Arrow 3 interceptor.

Source: David A. Fulghum

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