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Direct Attack Munition Affordable Seeker [DAMASK]

The DAMASK program was a three-year Fleet Advanced Technology Demonstration begun in response to the Navy's need for a low-cost, direct-attack weapon with three-meter accuracy. With the successful flight of GR-2, the demonstration program has reached its conclusion. The results were impressive. The DAMASK unit itself is simple - a fully strapdown (no gimbals) seeker with only 12 parts - and it can be inexpensively assembled from commercially-available off-the-shelf components. As for performance, the program has surpassed its goal of three-meter accuracy in both of the guided-round tests.

DAMASK was developed and tested at NAWCWD as part of a two-year Fleet Advanced Demonstration funded by the Office of Naval Research (ONR). The purpose was to demonstrate that laser-guided bombs (LGBs) can be replaced with image-guided bombs. Such a replacement will have the benefits of comparable accuracy without the necessity and the risk of an aircraft loitering on-site to guide the weapon to its target. Additionally, the image-guided weapon will have through-the-weather capability.

The current baseline JDAM is a Mk 84 2,000-pound bomb with Global Positioning System / Inertial Navigation System (GPS/INS) guidance. JDAM is operational with the Air Force and was used during allied operations in Kosovo. JDAM's accuracy, the circular error probable, or CEP, is 7-13 meters in the GPS/INS mode, 30 meters with INS alone. DAMASK will reduce the JDAM CEP to a mere 3 meters.

Precision is vitally important for several reasons. Smaller, hardened, critical targets (a bunkered communications node, for example) are simply tougher to hit. And the greater the precision with which the strike is made, the smaller the risk of collateral damage to unintended targets. More precise weapons can be designed with smaller warheads, thereby increasing an aircraft's loadout. Finally, the more accurate the weapon, the fewer that will have to be dropped to eliminate the target.

A DAMASK kit consists of a seeker mounted on the nose of the JDAM and processing electronics in the tail assembly. Before a mission, an image of the target taken from IR, visual, synthetic aperture radar, satellite photograph or other source is used to make a target template which is loaded into DAMASK.

The target template can be created on a PC on the Carrier and loaded into DAMASK before aircraft launch. A target template can also be downloaded to the aircraft from a reconnaissance asset, like a UAV or a satellite, or can be generated from the launch aircraft's onboard sensors and loaded into the weapon during the mission. The variety of template sources and ease of loading give a great deal of flexibility to mission planners.

After launch the weapon pitches its nose up; the high angle of attack maximizes its range. For most of the mission, guidance is exclusively by GPS/INS. Then, when the weapon is about 2 kilometers from the target, DAMASK makes its contribution.

DAMASK looks at the target for a second or two. At 30 frames per second, it's comparing what it sees with the target template that's been loaded. Then DAMASK says to the JDAM guidance unit 'You thought the target was over there, but it's really over here.' The guidance unit makes the corrections and the weapon flies the rest of the way in on the corrected GPS/INS data.

From the outset, DAMASK was designed for minimal cost. The system is fully strap-down (no moving parts); uses injection molded composite construction; and is built around an uncooled imaging IR focal plane array, to avoid the complexity and expense of cryogenic systems. Virtually all DAMASK components are off-the-shelf. The detector itself is a thermal imaging IR camera, produced by Raytheon Corp., for use in the night-vision system of the 2000 Cadillac Deville.

DAMASK's budget goal was $12.7K per seeker. Program management is now confident that the final cost will be closer to $10K per unit, far lower than any imaging missile seeker ever fielded.

The House Committee on Appropriations had supported an advanced technology demonstration of a low cost seeker technology called Direct Attack Munitions Affordable Seeker (DAMASK). DAMASK, developed at Naval Air Warfare Center China Lake, used a low cost commercial imaging infrared sensor produced for the automobile industry. DAMASK provided a passive, GPS independent, through the weather, lock-on after launch, precision strike capability. In actual flight tests, the seeker had demonstrated accuracy within one meter in a GPS denied environment. DAMASK was estimated to cost $20,000 per seeker, less than half of the amount allocated in the Air Force's SDB seeker estimates.

The House Committee on Appropriations strongly encouraged the Air Force to adopt the DAMASK technology for use in the SDB program. At a minimum, the Committee directed that evaluation of DAMASK technology be included in the SDB Request for Proposal (RFP) and that DAMASK be the standard of comparison in terms of cost and performance for all potential SDB seeker candidates.

The House Committee on Appropriations directed that prior to contract award for SDB, the Secretary of the Air Force submit a report to the congressional defense committees that includes: 1) a determination of whether the DAMASK technology (using an articulated design if required) can be adapted to accommodate the size requirements of the SDB; 2) an evaluation of DAMASK as a viable solution to the anti-jam requirements for the SDB; 3) an evaluation of DAMASK for use as an automatic target recognition seeker for mobile targets (assuming a logical technology growth path); 4) a cost and performance comparison between DAMASK and competing seeker proposals; and 5) a comparison of the competing seeker proposals in terms of technology readiness.

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