Air-Launched Weapons

MDA seeks laser-armed HALE UAV for counter-ICBM role

14 June 2017
The MDA's efforts to field a laser-armed HALE UAV may well be focused on the RQ-4 Global Hawk, though the agency is interested in systems that might meet at a future date the specification required. Source: Northrop Grumman

The United States is looking to field a laser-armed unmanned aircraft to intercept intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) towards the middle of the next decade, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) disclosed on 13 June.

In a solicitation posted on the Federal Business Opportunities (FedBizOpps) website, the MDA Advanced Technology Directorate said it requires a high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) with the payload capacity needed to carry a high-energy laser system payload to high altitudes for Boost Phase Intercept (BPI) of ICBMs in the 2023 timeframe.

"The results of this RFI [request for information] will inform future programme options for maturing BPI technology and capability following the current Low Power Laser Demonstrator (LPLD) effort. Proposed aircraft should be able to maintain continuous positive ground control and are expected to operate from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii and Edwards Air Force Base in California," the solicitation read.

While the MDA said it was seeking a HALE UAV for this role, it did note that manned concepts will be considered "with the appropriate justification".

Performance specifications listed in the RFI call for the HALE UAV to be able to fly higher than 63,000 ft; to have an endurance of greater than 36 hours on-station (plus flight time for notional 3,000 km transit to station); to be able to fly at a cruise speed of less than Mach 0.45 at on-station altitude; to have a payload capacity of at least 5,000 lb (2,268 kg) and as much as 12,500 lb (5,670 kg); have power available for the payload of at least 140 kW and as much as 280 kW for greater than 30 minutes with no loss in platform altitude; to support a one- to two-metre aperture optical payload; have low vibration at altitude, with angular displacements of less than 50 µrad; and to maintain continuous positive ground control.

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