Science fiction fans still marvel at the vast array of sophisticated, futuristic weaponry aboard the fictional starship Enterprise.
In reality, Air Force Research Laboratory's Munitions Directorate is actively involved in the design and development of advanced air to air missile technologies which will provide future warfighters with dramatically improved air launched weaponry.
In 1990, Team Eglin engineers realized the importance of developing revolutionary air to air missile flight control technologies to counter a new breed of highly effective, very maneuverable international weapons being fielded by potentially unfriendly nations. "Missile control technologies currently under development in the Munitions Directorate's Alternate Control Technology program will give fighter pilots the capability to intercept enemy aircraft almost without regard to the combatant aircraft's position or orientation," said Dr. Bruce Simpson, technical director of the Assessment and Demonstrations Division.
The program started in 1992 to explore current and future missile technologies with the goal of greatly improving air to air missile effectiveness against highly capable threats. Extensive trade studies, wind tunnel testing, and manned air combat simulations were completed to select the highest payoff missile control techniques to be incorporated into this next generation missile. The results led the Munitions Directorate to the dome simulation facility at McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Corp. in St. Louis, Mo., to further assess operational payoffs. F15 "Eagle drivers" from the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron, Nellis AFB, Nev., were asked to fly simulated missions with the new missile control technology programmed into the simulator. "The results were impressive," said Maj. Greg Neubeck, one of the F15 pilots who is now stationed at Langley AFB, Va. "After the simulator was configured with ACT missiles and the advanced aircraft fire control technologies needed to employ the missiles, several different air combat sorties were flown against a variety of threat missiles and aircraft," said Major Neubeck. "An aircraft employing an ACT missile could kill the adversary and survive every time in a headon merge scenario."
In many scenarios during the simulations, the aircrews were able to get off the first shot against enemy aircraft. This is due to the missile's advanced electronically steered seeker which is under development in the Munitions Directorate. "This revolutionary seeker allows quick target lockon at extremely large offboresight angles," said Advanced Guidance Division Technical Director Rick Wehling. "In many cases pilots flying the simulated missions were able to launch missiles 'overtheshoulder' at trailing adversaries, which enabled them to maintain straight and level, high speed flight enhancing their survivability," said Mr. Wehling.
The ability to quickly capture and maintain angles of attack exceeding 90 degrees enables the ACT missile to turn to the rear only two seconds after launch. Not only does this quick turn rapidly orient the missile toward the target. but it allows the majority of the missile's fuel to be used to accelerate toward the target. Miniature jet thrusters, called reaction jet controls. developed and matured under Strategic Defense Initiative programs are the key to this extreme maneuvering capability.
"This new technology results in an exponential increase in lethality," said Major Neubeck. "It allows you to achieve multiple quick kills even in a defensive situation. The overall result is a dramatic kill ratio advantage," he added.
"ACT missile performance capability establishes a new standard by which to judge future air to air weapons," said Dr. Simpson. "Besides being extremely agile and fast, the ACT missile also has the capability to be used against standard, more conventional straight ahead, longrange targets. This gives the ACT missile a true multimission capability." he said.
Plans for an ACT flight test program are being formulated with actual work scheduled to begin in October of 1996. This program will demonstrate the payoffs and feasibility of the ACT technologies in fullscale flight tests to include sled track and actual aircraft launches using aircraft from the 46th Test Wing also located at Eglin. The end result of this effort will be a mature fieldtested missile control concept for future highly effective air superiority weapons.
Point of Contact:
William J. Jones
(850) 882-8876 ext 3368