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October 31, 1996

Orion makes first SLAM-guided launch


P3 Weapons Integration Team

A Naval Force Aircraft Test Squadron P-3C Orion from the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) at Patuxent River made aviation history, as it delivered the first guided launch of a Standoff Land Attack Missile (SLAM) from a P-3C aircraft. The Orion, the Navy's patrol, antisurface and antisubmarine warfare aircraft, piloted by Lt. Todd White, performed this aviation first at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD) test range at Point Mugu, Calif. In addition, the aircrew employed the Real Time Mission Planning (RTMP) System from the airborne P-3C to provide prelaunch mission planning for the SLAM, another first.

The AGM-84E SLAM is an all-weather weapon featuring major modifications to the Harpoon antiship weapon that is already included in the P-3C armament system. SLAM incorporates the Hughes AGM-65F Maverick imaging infrared (IIR) seeker head with AGM-65G software, a Harris digital Phase II weapon data link unit, and a NAVSTAR Global Position-ing System (GPS) receiver processor unit with an integral navigation processor. The weapon executes a GPS/radar altimeter aided pre-programmed flyout profile and a man-in-the-loop aided, IIR guided end game.

Control is executed through the AN/AWW-13 data link pod, which was developed at NAWCAD Indianapolis. The missile used in the guided launch was an ATM-84E, which replaces the warhead section of the missile with an exercise section.

Testing and integration of SLAM with the P-3C is part of a Naval Air Systems Command (NavAir) plan to provide a two-pronged armament upgrade to the aircraft. When fully implemented, it is anticipated that the upgrade will provide the Navy with a long range, long loiter time force multiplier.

Building upon the success of equipping the P-3C with the shorter range Maverick missile and the Maverick Missile System (MMS), the McDonnell Douglas Aerospace (MDA) AGM-84E SLAM was selected as a standoff-range weapon to target non-hardened land targets and ships in port.

The historic SLAM-guided launch was the culmination of extensive tests on the missile and other integral components of the P-3C weapons system, leading to eventual fleet integration of SLAM into the P-3C armament inventory.

Previous testing of the SLAM with the P-3C has included worst-case physical fit ground testing and a series of flight missions.

Four separations of an instrumented SLAM Airborne Test Vehicle were performed in order to evaluate the separation characteristics of the SLAM from the P-3C at mission representative airspeeds and altitudes. In addition, integration testing of the SLAM with the MMS and the AN/AWW-13 data link pod has been performed in the laboratory and on the P-3C at NAWCAD Pax.

The RTMP System, consisting of a Mission Planning Computer, an Interface Controller, and a Portable Lightweight GPS Receiver was validated in the laboratory at MDA and on the aircraft at Pax River.

In the days just prior to the guided launch test, two captive carriage flights were conducted, including a one-plane event with the P-3C, and a two-plane event with the P-3C and a F-18D. These flights were critical steps as the aircrew verified proper missile initialization by the aircraft and missile performance while in simulated flight mode, and also rehearsed weapon operation and on-range procedures prior to the launch event.

The historic mission was flown in daylight VMC conditions at the Sea Test Range using the SLAM target complex located on the northwestern tip of San Nicholas Island.

Two ATM-84E SLAMs were loaded on the P-3C, with one each on wing weapon stations 11 and 16. In addition, the AN/AWW-13 data link pod was loaded on station 15, and high-speed 16mm film cameras were loaded on stations 10, 13, 14 and 17, and in the sonobuoy freefall chute.

The crew used inflight system checks on the RTMP system and the missiles to select which ATM-84E would be used in the actual launch. The RTMP was used to integrate mission profile parameters and SLAM specific mission templates to generate a SLAM preplanned mission for the missile.

An F-4 photo/safety chase aircraft witnessed the P-3C launching of the ATM-84E SLAM from wing weapon station 11 at 5:10 p.m. (local) against the primary target, a "building" constructed of a heated, stacked sea van.

Wes Gleason, the NAWCAD weapons integration team leader for the P-3C, stated that "the entire evolution was flawless, the separation went perfect and the crew guided the SLAM during the terminal phase to a direct hit on the target, a bulls-eye."

He concluded that "the launch would remain a memorable sight to all those aboard the historic P-3C flight. The entire mission was a fantastic success, and will now pave the way for operational implementation of SLAM, providing an added punch to VP squadrons on patrol around the globe."

Concluding testing of SLAM on the P-3C is expected to be completed at NAWCAD Patuxent River in early fiscal year 1997.

Last updated 10.31.96

Thursday, October 1996