Most short range air-air missiles (SRAAMs), and even some medium-range missiles like the French MICA and Russian AA-10/R-27 variants use some variant of infrared guidance, homing in on heat differentials produced by a target’s exhaust or even just air friction against its surface. The IR sensors are mounted in the nose of the missile, and if you look closely you’ll see that they’re behind a transparent “dome.” Creating those domes is a challenging materials task: give us something that lets as much IR radiation as possible in without distortion, but protects everything inside the missile from the buffeting and heat created during the missile’s own Mach 3+ flight and violent turns.
Raytheon Co. in Tewksbury, MA just received a $7.5 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for building engineered nano-composite oxides for high durability missile domes. The objective is to develop processing methods for the manufacture of IR transport domes capable of higher speed operation and greater particle impact resistance than sapphire, the current material choice.
This contract contains options which, if exercised, will bring the cumulative value of this contract to $14.4 million. Work will be performed in Tewksbury, MA, and is expected to be complete by October 2008. Contract funds in the amount of $3.9 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured, with 2 offers received. The Office of Naval Research in Arlington, VA (N00014-07-C-00037).
A radome is simply the covering in front of a radar that protects it but allows signals through – on a fighter plane’s nose, an AWACS plane’s back, or what have you. That’s something of challenge, however, when the vehicle is moving at Mach 5-10 and has to cope with the tremendous heat created by air friction. See “Australia, USA Collaborating on Hypersonic Research” for more coverage of current research into hypersonic vehicles, missiles, and launch systems.
Along with that research comes its obvious corollary: research into radomes that can remain effective and survive hypersonic speeds…
DARPA and prime contractor Lockheed Martin have decided not to build and fly the two planned HTV-1 craft after subcontractor C-CAT experienced delamination problems with the curved leading edges of the carbon-based aeroshell. Instead, they have shifted efforts to a different HTV-2 design whose multi-piece aeroshell has thinner leading edges and will be easier to build because it’s less of a technical stretch. Meanwhile, thermal protection research will continue, as will research into the scramjet engines required. DID has updated our FALCON HTV anchor article to accommodate the resulting changes, add additional background, and cover a recent contract.
With an annual spend of approximately GBP 2.6 billion (about $4.9 billion), the MOD is a very large investor in Research & Development – everything from micro-satellites and battery augmentors/substitutes to an inhaled spray cures for bubonic plague. This new strategy sets out in detail those technologies which the MOD believes should be supported and brought from concept to front line delivery more quickly. It will also launch several initiatives designed to bring smaller enterprises into these R&D efforts and widen the range of potential programs…
MagCanica, who is also working with a number of Formula 1 race car teams using its magneto-mechanical torque sensing and control technologies, will provide a wide variety of services and materials. These will include research and development, prototype development and fabrication, demonstration/validation, product development services, product application studies and modeling, fabrication/production of hardware, software design, software development and fabrication, retrofitting developed products into existing air and sea-based platforms, and in-service engineering pertaining to non-contacting torque sensing technology. Work will be performed in San Diego, CA and is expected to be complete in September 2011. The Phase I effort was competitively procured using SBIR Program Solicitation under Topic N01-024; 30 offers were received.
“Area 51” in Nevada, USA has been the stuff of myth and legend. Known world-wide as the birthplace and testing ground of famous planes like the U-2 Dragon Lady, SR-71 Blackbird, F-117 Nighthawk, and other “black program” aircraft, it has also been the subject of wilder UFO rumours and speculation.
In the October 2006 issue of Popular Science, noted “black project” researcher Bill Sweetman pieces together “The Top-Secret Warplanes of Area 51.” It covers some of the projects he believes to be underway there, based on patent filings, budget holes, and unfilled niches in the USA’s arsenal. DID would caution readers that all of this is speculation; holes in the US arsenal could be real due to neglect or priorities, patent filings et. al. may well pertain to active programs and research related to the WALRUS, J-UCAS, HAA/ISIS and other less well-known but nonetheless public programs, etc. With that said, his article makes for interesting and entertaining reading. Sweetman’s most surprising conclusion? That the Mach 5-6 Aurora wave-rider aircraft (see extensive GlobalSecurity.org project & budget analysis) may be on again as a $9 billion program, possibly with global strike as well as reconnaissance capabilities.
American Superconductor Corporation has received a $1.3 million contract extension for its second generation (2G) high temperature superconductor (HTS) wire from the US Office of Naval Research (ONR), with funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). This is the 6th contract or contract extension received by American Superconductor for 2G HTS wire development over just the last 10 months; the total dollar amount is approximately $8.1 million within that timeframe.
Superconductivity normally works at temperatures close to absolute zero (-459F/ -273C); “high temperature superconductor” wire has the ability to work in conditions you still wouldn’t exactly consider comfortable. Targeted defense applications for 2G HTS wire include ship propulsion electric motors and generators; that area is particularly interesting, and ties into another research effort DID has noticed…
ATK Space Systems Inc. in Clearfield, UT received a $21.7 million5 indefinite-quantity/ indefinite-delivery contract. It provides for the development and demonstration of automated composite production technologies, which may lead to enhanced design and manufacturing of cost-effective large composite structures for use on space launch vehicles. The technologies to be developed are intended to enable improved manufacturing scale, performance and reliability, while providing design flexibility and an improvement in costs for current and future space launch vehicles.
Solicitations began September 2005, negotiations were complete in June 2006, and work will be complete October 2011. The Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base, NM issued the contract (FA9453-06-D-0368).
Reader Lisa Wright tips us to the fact that DARPA is interested in R&D proposals to develop a process that efficiently produces a surrogate for petroleum based military jet fuel (JP-8) from oil-rich crops produced by either agriculture or aquaculture (including but not limited to plants, algae, fungi, and bacteria) and which ultimately can be an affordable alternative to petroleum-derived JP-8. The problem, as DARPA puts it, is that: “Current commercial processes for producing biodiesel yield a fuel that is unsuitable for military applications, which require higher energy density and a wide operating temperature range. Subsequent secondary processing of biodiesel is currently inefficient and results in bio-fuel JP-8 being prohibitively expensive.”
As DID readers know, the Defense Department has been directed to explore a wide range of energy alternatives and fuel efficiency efforts in a bid to reduce the military’s reliance on oil to power its aircraft, ground vehicles and non-nuclear ships.
If your organization, or one you know, thinks it has what it takes to crack the JP-8 problem (pun intended), you can see more details, award criteria, and contact information here. The opportunity will be open until July 5, 2007, or until a contract is awarded. In the near term, there will be a July 25, 2006 Proposers’ Day at Adam’s Mark Hotel in Denver, CO (4 attendees per organization max) – please send e-mail to BAA06-43 over at darpa dot mil not later than July 14, 2006 if you plan to attend.