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Vintage Racer

The Vintage Racer project demonstrated a loitering attack munition, a so-called "kamikaze drone", which could be fired on a hypersonic missile and then deployed over a suspected Chinese mobile missile deployment area to loiter in the area while searching for a target or waiting for final targeting commands. A direct fire mission could not depend on fleeting target information, which even fed to a fast missile might be rendered out of date by target displacement in the time needed to reach the target location. Loitering munitions can provide American forces with responsive fires to hold strategic and tactical Chinese mobile missiles at risk anytime anywhere in the area of interest.

The October 15, 2008 Final Report of the Defense Science Board (DSB) Task Force on "Time Critical Conventional Strike from Strategic Standoff" fournd that "None of the scenarios exposed a need for “one hour, global range delivery.” There appears to be nothing unique or compelling about one hour. ... Covert, loitering strike systems enabled by robust target ISR and tracking, C3 and fire control capabilities would revolutionize global strike for both the long war and for deterrence of rogue and near-peer nations".

A pre-emptive first strike by the USA could take out Chinese fixed launch sites, but China also has road-mobile launchers that could survive to retaliate. These missile launchers can change location throughout the planning and execution phases of a war. These strategic relocatable targets pose a new threat because of the uncertainty about their location. To combat this new threat, new procedures must be developed to improve the chance of finding and destroying an SRT.

Land-mobile strategic missiles pose substantial intelligence challenges. Mobile missiles are more difficult to defeat than fixed-site missiles because they could be moved around secretly to make it more difficult for the US to locate and target preemptively during a crisis. The relocatable target set impedes US ability to find, fix and finish the threat, a problem which is compounded by the fact that the US military did not have “persistent” intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets over China.

The Quick Reaction Fund (QRF) provided the Combatant Commands (CCMDs), Services, and joint warfighters opportunities to capitalize on relatively mature technologies. QRF leveraged maturing technology to rapidly prototype and field-test promising new prototypes that have immediate impact on time-sensitive operational needs. Capabilities addressed National Defense Strategy priorities and informed programs of record or new acquisition pathways to more effectively and affordably push innovation to the field. QRF focused on projects that have the potential to address conventional, disruptive, and asymmetric warfare needs. QRF initiatives typically delivered a prototype application within 12 months of being funded. It should be borne in mind that the total amount of QRF funding for all programs (not only Vintage Racer) is very low and amounted to only $ 18.499 million in fiscal year 2019, that is, it cannot fund a large-scale weapon system. From 2020 fiscal year, funds under QRF were transferred to financing under Emerging Capabilities Technology Development - ECTD).

The well-known American aviation journalist Steve Trimble saw an interesting slide in the U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy’s photo posted on the Flickr page about the Secretary’s visit in October 2019 of the annual Association of the United States Army exhibition and conference AUSA-2019 in Washington. Speaking at a booth with representatives of the General Atomics Corporation, the Secretary was holding a printout of a presentation entitled "Vintage Racer - Loitering Weapon System (LWS)." On the printout are seen the headings: “Hypersonic Ingress” (“Hypersonic Delivery”?), “Survivable”, “Time Over Target” and “Multi-Role”, and the illustration from the slide shows something launched from a ground launcher.

Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 Budget Estimates [March 2019] reported that "The previously-funded Vintage Racer project matured an advanced capability to prosecute targets of interest. This project validated aerodynamic design with wind tunnel testing. Vintage Racer also prototyped and integrated a guidance subsystem for targeted kinetic effects. Due to a phased program plan, Vintage Racer was completed with FY 2018 funding. Following subsystem integration, FY 2018 funding supported a flight demonstration in FY 2019. The project supported a key modernization cross-functional team, and will transition documentation and prototype technologies to the U.S. Army for additional development and follow-on acquisition activities."

The Department of Defense Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Budget Estimates [February 2020] reported "Vintage Racer matured an advanced capability to prosecute targets of interest. The project successfully validated aerodynamic design with wind tunnel testing and integrated a guidance subsystem for targeted kinetic effects before culminating in a FY 2019 flight test. Documentation and prototype technologies transitioned to the U.S. Army for additional development and follow-on acquisition activities."

There are a number of similar lointering munitions, such as Low-Cost Autonomous Attack System (LOCAAS) and the Loitering Attack Missile (LAM). By January 2007 Lockheed Martin had successfully conducted two demonstrations of its Multi Mode Enhanced Laser Detection and Ranging (E-LADAR) seeker at Redstone Arsenal, AL, and at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control in Dallas. The Redstone tests assessed the system’s capability to independently acquire and track targets in standalone Semi-Active Laser (SAL) and LADAR modes, as well as simultaneous SAL and LADAR target identification, acquisition and tracking in a cooperative engagement. The Dallas tests verified the system’s performance against moving and stationary targets. All tests were fully successful and met or exceeded expectations.

Lockheed Martin’s low-cost, dual-mode seeker design was developed and operationally demonstrated to provide unique high-resolution, three-dimensional target imaging for multiple applications. The system is designed to conduct wide-area searches and identify actual or potential threats, including targets partially obscured by camouflage or foliage. Additionally, the system can be operated in a high resolution terrain mapping mode. The Pentagon has funded Raytheon's Coyote loitering munition that can stay airborne for up to an hour and would neutralize attackers. "The most capable in its class, the Coyote unmanned aircraft system is small, expendable and tube-launched. It can be deployed from the ground, air or a ship," the defense contractor's page for the weapon says. "It's ideal for improved surveillance imagery, enhanced targeting capability, near real-time damage assessment and reduced threat to manned aircraft." The Army first deployed the Coyote in June 2019, pairing it with the KuRFS Ku-band short-range radar and redubbing the system "Howler."

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is the world's pioneer in developing and fielding various types of Loitering Munitions (LM). Harpy is an autonomous anti-radiation LM for SEAD/DEAD missions. HAROP is an Electro-Optical/Infra-Red (EO/IR)-guided, man-in-the-loop LM, designed to locate, track and destroy high quality static and mobile targets. Both systems have been sold extensively worldwide. The Harop is a bigger, improved version of IAI's Harpy anti-radiation drone, equipped with an electro-optical sensor, enabling the operator to select targets during the loitering time over the target area for suppression of enemy air defences (SEAD) missions.

IAI and Rheinmetall Defence teamed up for Reconnaissance and Strike Systems for the Bundeswehr on 28 June 2007. In the presence of Dr. Peter Eickenboom, State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Defence, and his Israeli counterpart, Pinchas Buchris, representatives of Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI) and Rheinmetall Defence signed a far-reaching agreement at the Paris Airshow. The two firms are cooperating closely in the development of a reconnaissance and strike system network using loitering munition (LM) assets of the latest generation for operational ground forces. Within the scope of this network, an integrated capability to precisely locate and engage specific targets will be achieved.

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Page last modified: 01-07-2021 17:59:59 ZULU