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Low Cost Cruise Missile Defense

The goal of the Low Cost Cruise Missile Defense (LCCMD) program is to employ emerging and existing technologies to develop and demonstrate an affordable missile interceptor. The LCCMD program is directed at defeating a threat consisting of unsophisticated air vehicles attempting to overwhelm our defensives by attacking in large numbers or by attacking over wide geographic areas. These threat vehicles include cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles capable of delivering conventional, chemical, or biological weapons and conducting jamming or surveillance missions.

The results of DARPA studies concluded that a low cost interceptor leveraging the planned air defense infrastructure offered the greatest promise of lowering cost-per-kill against unsophisticated air vehicles. Based on the results, the LCCMD program has focused on the development of low cost seekers for use on a modified version of the Miniature Air Launched Decoy (MALD).

During the course of the program, the low cost seeker concepts will be downselected based on the results of analyses, laboratory tests, ground tests, captive flight tests, and military service interest. A single seeker will be integrated with a modified MALD vehicle for live fire testing and transition to the military services.

The LCCMD program is focused on the development of advanced low cost interceptor seekers. These seekers achieve low cost by eliminating a costly gimbal, using commercial hardware, and matching seeker performance to the threat. The concepts being pursued through FY99 include:

  • Noise Radar Seeker. The noise radar seeker is a millimeter band system that transmits a noise waveform. The noise radar seeker operation is fundamentally different than traditional radar, is inherently low cost, and is robust to certain threat countermeasures. The noise seeker leverages the recent advances in processor technology.
  • The Micro-Electromechanical Machine System (MEMS) Electronically Steerable Antenna (ESA) Seeker. The MEMS ESA seeker employs MEMS switches to fabricate an affordable ESA. The ESA eliminates the need for an expensive gimbal assembly. The MEMS ESA seeker leverages the recent advantages in MEMS technology.
  • Laser Seeker. The laser seeker uses a high power laser transmitter and fiber optic receiver. The laser seeker employs a series of mirrors and unique fiber optic receiver to eliminate the expensive gimbal assembly. The laser seeker leverages the recent advantages in fiber optics technology.
  • Infrared (IR) Seeker. The infrared seeker uses a low cost long wave uncooled IR focal plane. Since it is a strapdown system, it does not require an expensive gimbal assembly. The IR seeker relies on commercial technology to provide an affordable seeker.
  • Optical ESA. The optical ESA employs a light modulated semiconductor wafer lens. This novel approach generates varying plasma patterns on the semiconductor wafer using an array of light emitting diodes. Different plasma patterns on the semiconductor effectively steer a millimeter wave beam passing through the semiconductor. The Optical ESA eliminates the need for an expensive gimbal assembly.
  • Ultra-High Frequency (UHF) Seeker. The UHF seeker uses a novel set of body mounted antennas that form an end-fire array. The array frees up the front end of the missile normally reserved for an antenna and requires no expensive moving parts. The UHF seeker is unique in that is uses the actual missile body as the antenna.

In 1999, DARPA selected the Noise Radar, MEMS ESA, and Laser Seekers for further development. From 1999 to 2001 these seekers were carried through increasingly more comprehensive testing. In addition, DARPA defined the interfaces between these seekers and the DARPA Miniature Air Launched Decoy (MALD), a potential host air vehicle for an interceptor system. In 2001, DARPA selected conventional Pulsed Doppler radars using ESAs as the concept most meriting further development. MEMS phase shifters had demonstrated promise but required further development to achieve necessary reliability and lifetimes for the LCCMD application. A successful phase shifter reliability improvement project was completed in late 2001, and DARPA has awarded a contract for a MEMS ESA seeker.


Page last modified: 04-09-2021 15:17:28 Zulu