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Army BMD Technology Thrusts Include Eyeing F-35 for BMD Missions

Eve of SMD Symposium Report (7 August 2017)

MONS Correspondent Marty Kauchak attended Defense Dialogues at the Space and Missile Defense (SMD) Symposium, Von Braun Center in Huntsville, Alabama and files this report:

The Future of Missile Defense was hosted by Raytheon on the eve of this year’s SMD symposium. Several bold pronouncements about the efforts of the US Army and broader US Defense Department to raise missile defence’s technology baseline to the next plateau were revealed to the afternoon gathering of military, industry and academic community members.

We as a community are looking at what’s possible in integrating [Lockheed Martin] F-35’s great capabilities’ into our integrated missile defence,” Richard De Fatta, the Director of the Future Warfare Center at USASMDC/ARSTRAT (US Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command), told the delegates at one point of the panel discussion. He continued, “we’re going to study this in the next month or so. We have a great capability – so let’s bring it in and see what it can contribute as an overhead asset.” 

A second panel member, Marc Bernstein, PhD, the associate director of MIT Lincoln Laboratory (Lexington, Massachusetts) encouraged delegates to reduce the cost of missile defence radars, and by extension, make them more affordable – thereby permitting them to be acquired in larger numbers and placed into networks. “One way technology can really help is bringing down the cost of an individual THAAD or PATRIOT radar by anywhere from a factor of somewhere between five and ten, and then you could think of buying lots of them. This would provide a large network of radars – providing a lot of resiliency there – presenting many radars [for an adversary] to take out.”

Bernstein offered that efforts to miniaturise electronics and mass produce components for iPhones and other commercial products, can be harnessed to gain these cost-savings. The BMD technology subject matter expert continued, “We can leverage these very well understood commercial applications, then ‘tweaking’ our requirements for military radars and using those commercial production techniques.”

Indeed, Bernstein presented the art-of-the-possible for using these commercial applications, noting his laboratory is working on radar prototypes for the US NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), “which will be five times less expensive than current phased array radars and still have a very long-range capability.”

Bernstein also obtained the delegates attention when he asserted, “we’re truly at an inflexion point for bringing high-beam lasers into the whole Department of Defense. This brings me back to the same thing I have been stating: it’s not the DoD’s investments which are leading the way but the work being done on the commercial side.”

State-of-the-art commercial practices in this sector include cutting and welding tools made of 1-1.5kw (kilowatt) fibre lasers, making hundreds of holes in materiel in hundreds of milliseconds. “This is a well-developed technology now,” the MIT leader emphasized and continued, “it’s hard to bring our 1kw laser within a meter of a ballistic missile. We have to do something. The technology is there. What we can do is ‘gang up’ many of these fibers and have them act coherently. Each one may be low power. But if you get enough of them, perhaps 100, together, you will have a coherent beam that is of very high quality that will propagate for very long ranges. All of that technology is here and is supported by a very deep technology base.”

Bernstein further declared, “you can build a very high power, all electric laser which has about a 50% efficiency, which is astounding.” 

Marty Kauchak


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