While the best gifts might come in small packages, so do some of the most challenging and destructive enemy munitions. Their size can make them extremely difficult to detect and defend against.
This challenge led Lockheed Martin to develop their Miniature Hit-to-Kill missile that borrows consumer electronics technology to defend against threats like drones and IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devises). Roughly the size of a collapsed umbrella, the missile is part of the Army’s Indirect Fire Protection Capability program focused on defending against compact artillery, mortar, and rocket threats that are typically less expensive to produce, very fast, and remarkably precise.
According to Lockheed, advances in miniaturized electronics have developed more rapidly in the consumer sector than aerospace or military applications. This led the company to utilize a design and bill of materials similar to a smartphone, and a tracking system that borrows from medical imaging technology in converting radio frequencies to light signals.
Apparently, this platform offers a unique dynamic where the electronics are durable enough for military use but don’t interfere with each other despite their compact enclosure.
The result is a ‘baby’ missile that weighs five pounds and stands about 30” tall. Embedded into this compact design is an advanced radio-frequency seeker for tracking and hitting a smaller target traveling at high speeds. Essentially, it’s kind of like a bullet tracking and impacting another bullet.
Detection and control systems, a rocket motor similar to those used in aircraft ejection seats, and the fuel supply are all embedded into a footprint small enough to be launched from a 1-1/2” diameter tube, but with enough mass to destroy its target. In addition to the cost and maneuverability advantages, these smaller munitions can also limit collateral damage to civilians and surrounding infrastructure.
Lockheed and the Army hope to have Miniature Hit-to-Kill missiles in action by 2022.