US MDA’s Project Hercules: Hydra-Killer?
One of the hard problems in missile defense is how to deal with decoys. By the time most ABMs are launched, a MIRV (Multiple, Independent Re-entry Vehicle) missile will have split into its component warheads. The thing is, modern ICBMS have space for more MIRVs than they carry due to treaties et. al. It’s easier, and cheaper to put a few decoy MIRVs in the missile than it is to build a new interceptor to counter each MIRV. You could MIRV the kill vehicles, but that’s not yet an option with smaller missiles. The other way to fight this multi-headed hydra, of course, is to get really proficient at figuring out which objects are decoys.
Enter the US Missile Defense Agency’s Project Hercules, a national effort to develop related algorithms and battle management concepts. Robust detection, tracking, and discrimination algorithms useful against targets in all phases of flight; a physics-based decision architecture that applies advanced decision theory to future Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) System Command, Control; and Battle Management Communications (C2BMC) concepts are all involved. MDA says it “Focuses national expertise on discrimination for the benefit of all BMD System elements,” and the algorithms et. al., will support spiral development via insertion and upgrade of its spinouts in other systems.
Contracts & Key Events
Aug 7/08: What do you do once Hydra’s algorithms are in place? Lockheed Martin announces that its team has successfully completed testing of the divert thruster used in the U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s Multiple Kill Vehicle-L (MKV-L) payload. The DACS (divert and attitude control subsystem) met performance requirements in a series of static, hot-fire tests at the White Sands Test Facility in Las Cruces, NM.
During an engagement with the enemy, the DACS thruster maneuvers the MKV-L carrier vehicle and its cargo of kill vehicles, then dispenses and guides the kill vehicles to destroy targets in the threat set using tracking data from the Ballistic Missile Defense System and its own seeker.
The MKV-L team includes Lockheed Martin in Sunnyvale, CA (MKV-L prime contractor); United Technologies’ subsidiary Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne in Canoga Park, CA, and Octant Technologies Inc. in San Jose, CA. Next, a hover test of the entire propulsion system for the carrier vehicle will be conducted at the National Hover Test Facility at Edwards Air Force Base, CA. In this controlled flight test, the DACS and thrusters, will be integrated with the guidance and control hardware subsystem.
Jan 23/07: Sparta, Inc., of Lake Forest, CA received a $15 million cost-plus-fixed-fee (level of effort) contract modification for algorithm development and decision architecture for Project Hercules. Work will be performed at Lake Forest, CA and is expected to be complete by December 2008. The Missile Defense Agency, Washington, DC is the contracting activity (HQ0006-03-C-0049).
Feb 21/06: Raytheon Company announces a follow-on Missile Defense Agency contract valued at $49 million over the 5-year period of performance for Project Hercules. Under the contract, Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems (IDS) will develop advanced technologies and system-wide architectures to improve the capabilities of the Ballistic Missile Defense System and will prototype these technologies in fielded systems.
Raytheon IDS has been one of the prime contractors for Project Hercules since 2003. See release.
June 11/03: SPARTA Inc. in Laguna Hills, CA received a sole-source cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to develop advanced enemy threat discrimination and tracking algorithms and a state-of-the art decision theory concept known as Decision Architecture, a tool providing sensor fusion and sensors and weapons resource management capabilities to the Ballistic Missile Defense System in Block 06. These functions require SPARTA to act in unique roles as the technical director and integrator of the Decision Architecture, software developer for the Decision Architecture elements planned for Block 06 delivery and software developer for a variety of tracking and discrimination algorithms.
The contract has a 3-year and 6-month period of performance with a contract value of $44.4 million. The Missile Defense Agency is the contracting activity (HQ0006-03-C-0049).
- US Missile Defense Agency – Project Hercules
- Sparta, Inc (2006) – The Global Ballistic Missile Defense System: Implications for International Security Relationships (PDF format].
- Sparta, Inc (2004) – Challenges for Vertical Collaboration Among Warfighters for Missile Defense C2 [PDF format]. Presented at The 2004 Command and Control Research and Technology Symposium.