Raytheon Eyes Arsenal of Directed Energy Warheads For Its Missiles
David A. Fulghum
1:21 PM on Jun 20, 2011
A lineup of airborne or air-launched, directed energy, warheads is moving closer to operational reality as the need grows for weapons that can destroy enemy electronics without killing bystanders.
Raytheon, for example, is taking a close look at the development of a warhead that would fit into their existing lineup of missiles that ranges from the miniature air-launched decoy (the MALD-V with its generic 51 lb. payload) to the ship-based Standard missile series. The project will be announced June 21 at the Paris Air Show.
The effort is tied to the company’s purchase of Ktech, a company with specialties in airborne electronic warfare, directed energy and pulsed power, says Mike Booen, Raytheon’s vice president for advanced security and directed energy systems. Booen’s organization has already developed and demonstrated a high power microwave (HPM) system that can protect airports and the airliners using them from man-portable air defense (Manpad) missiles.
Operationally, these directed energy systems are planned to solve three problems facing the U.S. military: how to avoid inflicting needless casualties, how to judge the effects of weapons that do not produce explosive or impact damage, and how to overcome anti-access and denied airspace defenses that are already being fielded around the world. Applications include medium-range ballistic missiles targeted against ships, anti-satellite weapons, cyberattack and information attack.
Programmatically, Raytheon’s business strategy works around the Pentagon’s reluctance to start new programs. Adm. Gary Roughead, the chief of naval operations, said “If it is not a system that is currently being procured, there is great aversion to going forward boldly. We are encumbered by an extraordinarily bureaucratic process. It is best to not have something [on the path to becoming] a program of record if you want it to move quickly.”
Raytheon officials will not discuss details of Ktech’s expertise, but it is known to include vulnerability assessment of enemy electronic systems, high power applications, advanced signals generation, antennas, antenna control, frequency management and deployed telemetry.
These capabilities are all needed for the development of airborne weapon systems that can analyze targets and then tailor a beam of radio frequency or high power microwaves to upset or even electronically destroy systems dependent on electronics. The beam of directed energy can be varied in width, energy output, modulation and frequency to create precise effects. Such systems also will have feedback monitoring to analyse the impact of these unseen, non-kinetic weapon.
Airframes initially expected to carry Raytheon’s new non-kinetic warheads (which inflict neither impact or explosive damage) are the Tomahawk cruise missile, a weapon that is the size and shape of a HARM high-speed, anti-radiation missile and MALD-V. The last is newly redesigned for a non-specific 51-lb.warhead and sized for carriage even by light aircraft, helicopters and UAVs.
All these air-to-ground missile would be designed for use against electronic and “no-collateral damage” targets such as sophisticated command and control, communications, weapons storage and intelligence-gathering facilities that may be located in heavily populated areas. They also would be a key element in defeating anti-access and denial of entry capabilities – all based on electronic defenses – being developed by many nations including China.
Other missions for non-kinetic warhead, air-to-air missiles could be the destruction of sensors and communications on enemy combat, surveillance and intelligence gathering aircraft,
The warheads at first would likely be disposable devices for standoff electronic attack and suppression or destruction of enemy air defenses. They would first be fitted to air-to-ground weapons like Harm and Mald, and they would likely arm the F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, EA-18G Growler, the F-16CJ Wild Weasel and the B-52. Tomahawks would be ship-launched.
Later, reusable HPM devices would be sized for the larger weapons bays of X-45 and X-47-size unmanned aircraft and the F-35 or F-22.
There are both explosively-generated and pulsed energy options for the anti-electronic devices, but Raytheon will focus on the latter for its initial rapid-development program to meet the demand for non-lethal, non-collateral damage weapons that can be used to avoid civilian casualties in combat.
The technological heart of the non-kinetic, anti-electronics warhead is an array of high performance batteries and capacitors, a pulsed power generator and a high-efficiency magnetron developed by Ktech that serves as the “business end” of directed energy and anti-cyber weapons, Booen says.
HPM, directed-energy, air-launched missiles, Raytheon, ar99, pas11