Air Defense: March 22, 2001


The US Army (through its Space & Missile Defense Command) has launched a program to identify a low-cost weapon that could shoot down relatively dumb cruise missiles, reserving more expensive missiles (e.g., Patriot PAC-3) for more difficult targets. The interceptor would use a booster similar to Patriot (if not the Patriot's rocket booster) and would be fired from a Patriot launcher. (Another version might use the Navy Standard missile as a booster and be carried on naval warships.) The actual interceptor would be based on the Miniature Air-Launched Decoy and would use a cheap seeker design to save money. Three designs are under review, including a laser radar, a noise-correlation radar, and an electronically switched array based on micro-electromechanical relays. The last design is the least mature and hardest to build, but if it can be done, would provide the best options. The program, in conjunction with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, should be completed next year. If the program moves ahead, a live fire demonstration would take place in 2004.--Stephen V Cole 


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