The U.S. Air Force approved the $80 million U.S. Air Force deal March 31 for the Phase II risk reduction mark of a radar-jamming variant of Raytheon's Miniature Air Launched Decoy.
The company describes MALD as a cheap, unmanned aerial vehicle that is "modular, air-launched and programmable."
The relatively lightweight MALD comes in at under 300 pounds and can fly 500 nautical miles -- 575 regular miles.
The new MALD-J model has gone through all its required flight testing and contains a new radar-jamming function, Raytheon said.
"MALD-J is a key component in a system of systems that will fill a critical capability in the airborne electronic attack arena," said Harry Schulte, vice president of Raytheon Missile Systems' Air Warfare Systems product line. "Like the baseline MALD, the J variant is modular and designed with growth in mind."
The new contract is for two years and requires Raytheon to work on advancing the MALD-J variant for operational use. The company said it would carry out free-flight testing to test the reliability of the decoy system's hardware and software under simulated combat conditions.
Raytheon said it would also carry out a system critical design review as preparation for the eventual final system design and development. The goal of these procedures will be to prepare the MALD-J system for its full free-flight testing and then a first low rate production run.
If all then goes well, the Air Force will give the go-ahead for a "milestone C decision" to move ahead into full production, probably in early 2011, the company said.
The MALD system is designed to mimic the combat flight profiles and signatures of U.S. and other allied aircraft to confuse hostile air defenses, Raytheon said. MALD has so far carried out 35 of its 37 projected flight tests.