As quickly as technologies advance worldwide, global threats continue to rapidly increase. Missile capabilities have expanded, with continued and accelerated development of long-range and ballistic missiles. Of increasing concern, however, is the development of a new generation of missile technology.
Within this new generation of missile technology exists the potential for hypersonic glide vehicles, which are highly maneuverable and travel at speeds exceeding Mach 5, making them extremely difficult to detect.
“Hypersonic glide vehicles do not follow the same deterministic trajectory as preceding ballistic technology,” said John Holder, Missile Warning and Defense (MWD) Chief Systems Engineer, L3Harris.
Previous defense architectures, which counted on being able to predict where the missile would land based upon initial launch trajectory information, are no longer viable options.
“Beyond their high maneuverability, low heat signatures during various phases of flight make the missiles very hard to detect through the atmosphere from space,” Holder continued.
Developing an architecture and technology that address these threat capabilities (both current and projected) has been the primary focus of the L3Harris MWD team.
Missile Warning and Defense
L3Harris has an extensive, 60-year history in the design, build and test of both geosynchronous and low earth orbiting weather and climate instruments. Among these are the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) instruments, which are the most sophisticated meteorological imaging instruments ever built for operational weather forecasting. In fact, they are the only weather instruments that provide flexible, custom scanning that is configurable on-orbit.
“We observed that these instruments had the sensitivity and performance capability of detecting launches from orbit,” Holder said. “This led to significant company investment to develop accompanying on-orbit algorithms that supported detection and tracking of these missiles through the multiple stages of flight and potential atmospheric conditions.”