Navy Lightweight Exoatmospheric Projectile (LEAP) / Terrier LEAP / Navy LEAP
BMDO and the Navy demonstrated in the mid-1990s the integration of BMD-developed technologies into existing missiles. The LEAP and Advanced Solid Axial Stage (ASAS), both developed under the SDIO and BMDO programs, were flown aboard modified TERRIER missiles during tests at sea.
The LEAP is a miniaturized kinetic kill vehicle that, once delivered on a path towards the ballistic missile target, detects, acquires, and homes in on that target. LEAP destroys the target missile by force of impact. Efforts to pursue advanced, lightweight, low-cost components for space-based and ground-based ballistic missile defense interceptors have generated significant progress in the LEAP program over the past few years. The LEAP program has succeeded in developing several miniature kill vehicles all weighing under 20 kilograms. These LEAP vehicles have undergone a series of hover tests to demonstrate their abilities to "fly" and, using optical seekers, acquire and track ballistic missile targets. (LEAP technology development is discussed in further detail in the Advanced Technology section.)
The ASAS is a state-of-the-art space rocket motor that provides the LEAP with its final axial boost towards the target. The ASAS program was initiated in the late 1980's to support the Space-based Interceptor program with a robust, storable solid axial propulsion system. The focus of the ASAS program was to minimize weight and cost, while maximizing performance. By 1992, technology development was completed and all that remained was integrated stage testing. Due to funding constraints, the program was temporarily stopped. However, the LEAP program resumed program funding since the ASAS technology provided an upper stage capability suitable for the Navy LEAP experiments. The combination of the Navy's STANDARD Missile and the ASAS provides sufficient propulsion to boost the LEAP kill vehicle beyond the atmosphere to intercept longer-range theater-class ballistic missiles far from their intended targets.
In 1991, the SDIO and the Navy began the joint Terrier LEAP Technology Demonstration Program. The purpose of the technology demonstration was to identify and address key technology issues involved with incorporating miniature hit to kill interceptors into a tactical weapon system to demonstrate the feasibility of performing high altitude ballistic missile defense from a Navy platform. To support these requirements, the proposed action involves integration and testing of Navy LEAP demonstration technologies. An environmental assessment of the Navy LEAP Technology Demonstration was concluded in September 1992 in a Finding of No Significant Impact. Subsequent changes to the program called for conducting flight tests 3, 4 and 5 at Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia. The assessment indicates that no significant impacts are anticipated as a result of the proposed changes to the Navy LEAP program.
The team reconfigured the Navy Standard Missile by adding a high performance third stage rocket motor and the LEAP kill vehicle. In the Terrier LEAP demonstration, the LEAP vehicle was reconfigured in only nine months from a liquid to solid divert and attitude control system, and successfully hover-tested at the Edwards Air Force Base Hover Test Facility. In 1992, the Navy launched the first LEAP-equipped missile from the USS Jouett, a Leahy-class guided missile cruiser, off the California coast. By the time of the decommissioning of the Leahy class, the Navy and the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), SDIO's successor, conducted three more flight tests, setting the stage for integration aboard the Navy's top-of-the-line warships, the AEGIS cruisers.
Following the successful hover test series and initial integration flight experiments with modified US Navy TERRIER missiles, the LEAP program became a candidate for the Navy Theater-Wide Defense program.
By 1995 the LEAP program had achieved dramatic successes in the development of advanced interceptor technologies and in the reduction of interceptor size and weight. During the course of the program, BMDO demonstrated important, new manufacturing techniques for LEAP. Tremendous advances have been made in the process of welding small, high-pressure-tolerant tubing and tanks; precise fabrication and machining of 3-D carbon-carbon thrust chambers and complex metallic/composite components; the creation of fast-response, miniature valves and nozzles; and the manufacturing of compact, high-density electronics.
The Advanced Solid Axial Stage (ASAS) is a state-of-the-art space rocket motor that provides the LEAP with its final axial boost towards the target. The ASAS program was initiated in the late 1980's to support the Space-based Interceptor program with a robust, storable solid axial propulsion system. The focus of the ASAS program was to minimize weight and cost, while maximizing performance.
By 1992, technology development was completed and all that remained was integrated stage testing. Due to funding constraints, the program was temporarily stopped. However, the LEAP program resumed program funding since the ASAS technology provided an upper stage capability suitable for the Navy LEAP experiments. Under contracts with the Air Force Phillips Laboratory (Edwards Air Force Base, California) and Hughes Missiles Systems Company, the Elkton Division of Thiokol Corporation completed the design, development, and qualification of a third stage for use in the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO)/ navy Terrier Lightweight Exoatmospheric Projectile (LEAP) flight experiments. The stage consists of a solid- propellant motor with omni-axis thrust vector control (TVC), safe-and-arm (S&A) devices, flight-termination system, pitch/yaw/ roll attitude control system (ACS), cables/connectors, and skirt/interstage structures. The combination of the Navy's STANDARD Missile and the ASAS provide sufficient propulsion to boost the LEAP kill vehicle beyond the atmosphere to intercept longer-range theater-class ballistic missiles far from their intended targets.
The LEAP design includes a highly advanced, large aperture, long wave infrared (LWIR) seeker that provides acquisition ranges greater than 300 km against typical tactical ballistic missile threats. It also contains an interferometric fiber optic inertial measurement unit (IMU) for improved midcourse and terminal guidance. During the Navy LEAP Technology Demonstration Program, the LEAP KKV operated beyond expectations. After ejection from the Standard Missile, LEAP's LWIR seeker acquired and tracked the tactical ballistic missile target at a range of over 135 km, well beyond the requirement.
A cost and operational effectiveness analysis (COEA) was conducted in the mid-1990s to assess interceptor alternatives. The Theater-Wide Defense interceptor was integrated into the existing AEGIS Weapon System modified for the Navy Area Defense (lower tier) program.
The LEAP/Standard Missile-3 Kill Vehicle program transitioned from a demonstration program to the AEGIS-LEAP Program, and finally the AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense Program. Today, AEGIS cruisers patrol the Pacific armed with the LEAP-equipped, Standard Missile 3.
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