Latest News

High-Speed Multi-Payloads Cruise Missile To Benefit Warfighter

By | July 10, 2006

      By Geoff Fein

      The Office of Naval Research (ONR) and Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT] last week conducted a high supersonic submunition dispense test of the Revolutionary Approach To Time critical Long Range Strike (RATTLRS) asset, an effort to develop a cruise missile capable of going Mach 3.

      RATTLRS is a joint development of ONR, Lockheed Martin, the Air Force, NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

      “We are trying to recreate environmental conditions of a high supersonic dispense,” Lawrence Ash, ONR aircraft and weapons science and technology program manager, told Defense Daily, sister publication of Space & Missile Defense Report, in a recent interview.

      “There are key phenomenological and physical characteristics we are looking for during dispense to ensure we can do what we predicted we can do, deliver munitions where we want it,” he added.

      The current round of testing is examining integrated systems, Ash said. The RATTLRS missile is going to have to carry other things besides the propulsion system, such as fuel, avionics, and a variety of payloads.

      “As you go through a development program like this, we have a sequence of tests to verify our predictions–it could be performance tests, strength tests or temperature pressure test,” he said. “One thing that people may be interested in, this is a little out of character for a System Design and Development (SDD) program, we are showing the integration with a payload and those tests are occurring right now. We have already shown this system can deliver multiple subsonic submunitions.”

      No one from ONR or Lockheed Martin was available to comment on the June 29 test.

      Besides last month’s test, Ash said there would be a high supersonic penetration demonstration test later this year.

      The RATTLRS program is the culmination of investments that have come out of the Department of Defense (DOD) turbine technologies investment known as the Integrated High Performance Turbine Engine Technology Program (IHPTET), Ash noted.

      Back in the 1950s the DOD had the SR-71, a long-range strategic reconnaissance aircraft, which reached speeds on the order of Mach 3, Ash said. Lockheed Martin built the SR-71 and took a cruiser engine and fit it into a large aircraft, he added.

      Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp. [UTX], built the J-58 (JT11D-20A) engines for the SR-71. The aircraft made its final flight in October 1999.

      “What we have now is an accelerating engine that goes more than Mach 3 but it has six times the thrust of that (SR-71) engine. It is only six percent of the weight, 25 percent of the diameter and 20 percent of the length. That is what makes it different,” Ash said.

      “Take a look at the SR-71. That engine is huge; the size of that engine is the size of our total missile platform. That is the kind of scaling reduction we have done.”

      The RATTLRS engine is 13 inches in diameter and basically 40 inches long, Ash said. “It’s small, tiny. It’s hard to believe it pushes approximately a 20-foot vehicle.”

      “It really struck me, when you see an SR-71 engine and how big this aircraft is and you look at this tiny engine and the size of our vehicle. It really strikes you, we have come a long way in a very short period of time,” he added. “We have gone from a full-sized manned aircraft Mach 3 engine, down to something that can fit in a tactical weapon system and has a very high utility.”

      RATTLRS will bring an important benefit to the warfighter, Ash said. It will bring a high-speed cruise missile capable of carrying a variety of payloads with an unparalleled ability to have something called Distributed Offensive Capability (DOC), and not just to the Navy warfighter, but to the joint warfighter, Ash explained.

      Achieving speeds of Mach 3 will buy responsiveness, Ash said. It allows the missile to get to a moving mobile target in a reasonable amount of time and find and deliver its payload and affect the target, he added.

      “It is not helpful for the warfighter to identify a target in the field call for a weapon and it comes in an hour later. The target will be gone.” And range is a key requirement. “It doesn’t do any good [for the target to be] identified at 700 nautical miles (nmi) to 1,000 nmi and the missile only [goes] 300 nmi.”

      Compared to a subsonic system, RATTLRS time-to-target is reduced by two-thirds, he added.

      One of the extremely unique aspects of RATTLRS is its turbine-based propulsion system, Ash explained. “RATTLRS can trade speed for range. So we had an extended range already. Now we can increase that further, up to 30 percent further, with a small trade in speed.”

      The types of payload RATTLRS can deliver are two to six times greater than any other high-speed system, Ash added.

      Among the payloads envisioned for RATTLRS are submunitions, penetrators, and unitary warheads, he added.

      RATTLRS can be air launched, sub launched or ship launched by Navy assets as well as air launched from Air Force assets, Ash said.

      “Existing systems are either ship and/or sub or just aircraft [launched] but not both. RATTLRS is all three, plus it is joint.”

      “Our cost goal is $600,000 per unit if they buy 2,500 systems. The more you buy, the more you save.”

      Along with U.S. interest in RATTLRS, Ash said there has been foreign interest as well.

      Leave a Reply