TURNER BRINTON, WASHINGTON
Raytheon expects to get a $5 million contract shortly to complete development of an air-launched missile interceptor that the company says
soon will be ready for production and can be had at a fraction of the cost of existing systems.
The Network Centric Airborne Defense Element (NCADE) is being developed by Raytheon Missile Systems of Tucson, Ariz.,
to engage short- to medium-range ballistic missiles like Scuds during their boost phase. It
uses a two-stage booster
derived from Raytheon’s Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile combined with an infrared seeker. While many of NCADE’s specifications are proprietary, the company says it can intercept ballistic missiles long after their motors cut off as they leave the atmosphere.
Raytheon began developing the NCADE under a
$7 million development contract awarded by
the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) in 2006. A second contract worth
$12 million followed in 2007, and Raytheon and the MDA have
almost completed negotiations on
-on deal worth around $5 million, said Mike Booen, Raytheon’s NCADE program manager.
spokesman Rick Lehner said the agency expects to award the
Raytheon and the MDA conducted the first NCADE intercept test Dec. 3, when a U.S. National Guard F-16 jet fired two NCADE interceptors that acquired and tracked an Orion sounding rocket. The first interceptor hit and destroyed the target.
Booen said Raytheon and the MDA are
to determine the next step in testing, possibly including a 2009 test in which the NCADE uses its own radar to track the target rather than the aircraft’s radar.
While development is moving along, the MDA has not yet decided on the future of this program. Raytheon has pitched a plan to the MDA that would deliver 20 of the missiles in four years.
Compatibility and price are the two attributes that will make NCADE an attractive missile defense option, Booen said. More than two-dozen countries already use the Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, and the aircraft that carry them can accommodate NCADE missiles without modifications, he said.
The two missiles have
exactly the same
length and diameter and vary by less than 10 kilograms in weight.
Raytheon says once production begins, it will be able to deliver these missiles for
under $1 million each. In the missile defense arena, that is relatively cheap; Raytheon’s Standard Missile-3, the interceptor used with the U.S.
Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system, is
10 times that price, Raytheon said.
“We have had discussions with several other countries,” Booen said. “The nice thing is that we’ve already sold them [air-to-air missiles], and now they can have missile defense too.”