New System to Test Fire Air-to-Surface Missiles from Ground (UPDATE)

By Valerie Insinna
Moog Inc. is scheduled in March to test whether its new system will allow users to launch Hellfire missiles from combat vehicles and boats in addition to being fired by helicopters and airplanes. That capability has been on the Army’s wish list for years, company officials said.

Many companies make “stores management systems” — a collection of computers, sensors and other hardware and software used to launch and control precision-guided weapons such as missiles. Most systems are specific to a certain aircraft or vehicle, said Jason Reichard, Moog’s director of integrated defense systems. Moog’s system is designed to be agnostic to the model of missile and the platform it is fired from.

“Its key is its interoperability,” he said. “We’re not going to be replacing something on an Apache or an F-16 or an F-35. It’s for nonstandard aircraft — fixed or rotary — ground vehicles that are new that want missiles, or Marine [Corps] boats.”

The system is the first off-the-shelf product that is compatible with Lockheed Martin’s Hellfire and Longbow missiles. The company is also working with manufacturers to integrate other missiles into the system, he said.

Missile primes typically make stores management systems for their own products, but companies are hesitant to share intellectual property with each other. Because Moog builds control systems instead of the missiles themselves, companies are more likely to share their technology, Reichard explained.

“It also helps the missile primes because there’s not a lot of new platforms that the U.S. is putting these on,” he said. “To increase the volume, we have to find new applications for these weapons on nonstandard platforms or [by] taking an air-to-ground missile and making a ground-to-ground missile.”

The first ground-to-ground demonstration scheduled for March is for a foreign customer, but the U.S. military is also interested in the system, he said.

The first step was proving the system’s air-to-surface capability last year at the Army’s Yuma Proving Grounds, he said. During those demonstrations, a MD-500 helicopter and Cessna C-208 airplane used the stores management system to launch and guide Hellfire missiles during 35 target engagements, according to a news release. 

The stores management computer weighs four pounds, which is about a quarter of the weight of similar equipment, Reichard said. Moog’s system is in a similar price range as competing systems, which cost about $400,000 for a weaponized helicopter, he added.

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the price of Moog's stores management system.

Topics: Business Trends, Missile Defense

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