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Net-Centric Airborne Defense Element (NCADE)

The Network Centric Airborne Defense Element (NCADE) weapon system consists of netted launch aircraft, fire control, cueing and targeting sensors, and interceptors. The interceptors can be launched from manned or unmanned aircraft to provide a quick response to changing battle situations and mobile tactical ballistic missile launchers. This low-risk, boost- and ascent-phase interceptor enables the warfighter to counter both short- and medium-range ballistic missile threats in a cost-effective manner using current airborne platforms.

Network Centric Airborne Defense Element fills a critical niche in the Ballistic Missile Defense system and provides a low-cost approach to interceptor development and acquisition cost. NCADE is an air-launched weapon system designed to engage short- and medium-range ballistic missiles in the boost, ascent or terminal flight phases. NCADE is a missile defense system that will affordably leverage operational tactical missile technologies and infrastructure.

The Net-Centric Airborne Defense Element concept uses modified components of the existing AIM-9X and AIM-120 "AMRAAM" air-to-air missiles, combined with a new liquid propellant second stage to produce a missile capable of boost-phase intercepts. The proposed missile could be carried by manned fighters or unmanned aerial vehicles and could be used against all ranges of missiles in the boost phase in those cases where aircraft could penetrate to within about 100 miles of the launch site.

Network Centric Airborne Defense Element also leverages proven imaging infrared seeker components from existing Raytheon production programs. This enables a potentially rapid development and fielding path. The NCADE interceptor leverages many proven components and technologies, including the aerodynamic design, aircraft interface and flight control system of Raytheon's Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile. NCADE's small size enables it to be carried by and launched from smaller unmanned aerial vehicles, providing a potential operational advantage.

The commonality with AMRAAM enables NCADE to launch from a wide variety of aircraft. NCADE has the same form, fit and interfaces as the Advanced Medium-Range Air-to Air Missile (AMRAAMT) and can be integrated onto current and future aircraft such as the F-15, F-16, F/A-18, F-22 Raptor, F-35 Lightning II, and many international aircraft. Using AMRAAM infrastructure decreases lifecycle cost persistent unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) applications with the integration of the AMRAAM launcher.

NCADE uses a combat-proven imaging infrared seeker that is in production. A nosecone and aerospike protect the infrared seeker during flyout and operation. Targeting can be provided by radar and infrared search and track sensors employed on existing aircraft.

The boost- and ascent-phase capability of NCADE is enabled by high-altitude launch and a high-performance two-stage propulsion system. The NCADE interceptor first stage is derived from the AMRAAM rocket motor and control section. The second stage uses a hydroxyl ammonium nitrate (HAN) fuel for all upper-stage propulsion - including axial, divert and attitude control system - to provide endo- and exoatmospheric flight. HAN is a liquid fuel with very high density and specific impulse. It is easy to handle and has very low toxicity, which may enable safe shipboard operations.

NCADE is the result of an FY2006 earmark. Net Centric Airborne Defense Element (NCADE) also received a $6,000,000 earmark in FY2008. Earmarks are funds provided by the Congress for projects or programs where the congressional direction (in bill or report language) circumvents the merit-based or competitive allocation process, or specifies the location or recipient, or otherwise curtails the ability of the Executive Branch to properly manage funds. Congress includes earmarks in appropriation bills - the annual spending bills that Congress enacts to allocate discretionary spending - and also in authorization bills.

Raytheon is under contract to the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) for NCADE concept development and risk reduction. By May 2007 Raytheon Company had demonstrated a key propulsion component of the Network Centric Airborne Defense Element (NCADE) program. As part of the NCADE risk-reduction program, Raytheon and partner Aerojet tested an advanced hydroxylammonium nitrate thruster that provided more than 150 pounds of thrust for longer than 25 seconds. This test, which took place at the Aerojet facility in Redmond, Wash., demonstrated what the Missile Defense Agency calls "knowledge points."

The thruster is an advanced monopropellant that provides increased performance and high-density packaging that will result in lighter, higher- velocity interceptors. Hydroxylammonium nitrate is also less toxic and easier to handle than other propellants. This propulsion technology could eventually enable safe shipboard operation.

Raytheon also fabricated two prototype NCADE seekers. The seekers have undergone characterization testing in a high-fidelity simulator demonstrating their ability to track a booster in the presence of a bright rocket plume.

On 03 December 2007 a seeker characterization test for the Net-Centric Airborne Defense Element (NCADE) was successfully conducted today at approximately 11:07 a.m. EST at White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), NM. Preliminary indications were that planned flight test objectives were achieved. This test involved the successful imaging at close range of a boosting Orion sounding rocket by an NCADE seeker equipped AIM-9X missile launched from an F-16 Aircraft. Although not unexpected, the subsequent intercept destroyed the target. A second AIM-9X launched during the test observed through its seeker the intercept of the target by the first and was also on a trajectory to intercept the target. The target missile was launched from WSMR.

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