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DOD Studies Patriot Missiles On F15C Aircraft
January 12, 2007

The Missile Defense Agency will soon award Lockheed Martin a $3 million contract to study the feasibility of equipping F-15C fighters with Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles to counter cruise missiles and intercept ballistic missiles in their boost phase, according to agency and company officials.

The Air Launched Hit-to-Kill initiative is focused on a “refined design” of an F-15C’s external weapons bay with the PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement integration and performance estimate, an MDA official wrote in a Dec. 21 e-mail to Inside the Army.

MDA is expected to award Lockheed the money in the “next few days” for risk reduction and concept definition, according to the agency official.

Mike Trotsky, Lockheed Martin vice president of Air and Missile Defense programs, told ITA Dec. 6 that equipping a fighter with the missile capability would be beneficial for two reasons -- it could defeat cruise missiles and intercept ballistic missiles in their boost phase.

“If a Scud was launched from a barge or if a cruise missile was launched outside territorial waters attacking the United States, obviously if you had an F-15 up and it had a PAC-3 on it you could do long-range cruise missile defense or [tactical ballistic missile] defense,” Trotsky explained.

He said there are two feasible concepts for employing the weapon.

First, fighters equipped with PAC-3 missiles (above) could be assigned to fly routine Civil Air Patrol. In the second scenario, the Defense Department could “scramble” PAC-3 equipped fighters as needed, Trotsky explained.

Lockheed calls the PAC-3 MSE, the baseline missile for the Medium Extended Air Defense System, a more powerful version of its hit-to-kill missile now in production.

“The MSE uses a more powerful rocket motor and larger fins for increased maneuverability against faster, more sophisticated ballistic and cruise missiles targets,” Jennifer Allen, a company spokeswoman, told ITA in July. “With an extended reach of up to 50 percent with MSE, MEADS would gain even more capability to protect ground forces and vital assets.”

Next year, MSE will fly during a control test without a target and two flight tests with targets. Following testing, the Army is expected to make a production decision, Trotsky said earlier this month.

The Navy has also studied the feasibility of fighter aircraft equipped with PAC-3 missiles, as reported in May 2005.

In addition to MDA’s funding of the Air Launched Hit-to-Kill effort, the agency has advanced a $2 million proposal for Lockheed Martin to build an Infrared Search and Tracking System (IRSTS), which would be used with the Air Launched Hit-to-Kill technology, an MDA official said. The agency has requested the funding via the director of defense research and engineering’s Quick Reaction Special Projects program. A decision on this initiative is expected late next month, MDA said.

The IRSTS would have utility for both the Air Launched Hit-to-Kill effort as well as another initiative known as the Net Centric Airborne Defense Element, the MDA official said.

“Unfortunately, the IRSTS will arrive too late to support the first proposed Net Centric Airborne Defense Element (NCADE) flight test later this year,” the MDA official wrote. “NCADE, another air-launched concept under contract with Raytheon, utilizes major components from existing air-to-air missiles. The initial NCADE flight test will likely take place this summer on the White Sands Missile Range, with the objective of verifying the NCADE seeker’s capability of differentiating plume from hard body in a boost-phase intercept.”

Additionally, the official said the NCADE flight test will be supported by the Air Force Seek Eagle office, and either the Air National Guard/Air Force Reserve Test Center in Tucson, AZ, or the 46 Test Group at Holloman Air Force base, NM.

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