Air Weapons: Decoys That Cast Confusion


April 16,2008: Now that the U.S. Air Force has a new powered decoy that works (after six years of wasted effort on bad designs), they are adding radar jamming capability. The new MALD (miniature air-launched decoy) is about ten 9.5 feet long, and its pop-out wings give it a five foot wingspan. The 285 pound MALD is powered by a small turbojet engine that gives it a speed of up to 1000 kilometers an hour, for 45 minutes at 35,000 feet, or 20 minutes at 3,000 feet. It can be programmed to fly a specific course to try and get enemy air defenses to open up, so the enemy weapons can be spotted and destroyed. MALDs are also designed to be used in swarms to overwhelm enemy air defenses. The new MALDs cost about $250,000 each.

Eight years ago, the MALD was supposed to be a smaller (eight feet long), simpler and cheaper ($30,000) design. But, as is common with these project, both the air force and the manufacturer, kept coming up with new things the MALD had to have. Some were necessary, others were just part of the usual procurement politics. The current MALD, which is now ready to go into production, has a range of about 900 kilometers, and is apparently reliable enough to be used in combat. The basic MALDs are used to deceive enemy radar, and look, at least on a radar, like a fighter-bomber. The radar jamming capability of MALD-J will be the first of many electronic warfare capabilities added to the higher (up to half a million dollars, or more, each) priced version of MALD.




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