US Air Force Awards $4M For Short-Range Air-To-Ground Missiles

Source: Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and L3 Harris have each been awarded 90-day, $2 million contracts by the U.S. Air Force to develop a new, short-range air-to-ground missile. The Stand-in Attack Weapon (SiAW) will be able to engage enemy ground targets while inside an opponent’s air defenses, targeting ballistic missiles, surface-to-air missiles, and other targets. Initial purchase of the first missiles are expected in 2023.

The Air Forces’ air-to-ground weapons are divided into two categories: those launched from a distance, outside of an adversary’s air-defense network (stand-off weapons), and those launched from within the network itself (stand-in weapons). Older aircraft typically use stand-off weapons, allowing the more modern, stealth craft – such as F35’s – to use stand-in weapons while operating within an enemy’s air-defense envelope.

Currently, F-35s are not equipped with stand-in weapons, except for guided bombs. These bombs are short-ranged and highly accurate, but function only as free-fall weapons and do not exceed Mach 1.  SiAW is expected to allow F-35 pilots to quickly engage targets on the ground with a fast-moving missile before the target can get a missile off or relocate elsewhere.

Initial reports state that the SiAW technology will build on work done for the Navy on Northrop’s Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile (AARGM). AARGM has a reported official speed of Mach 2+ and a range of 60 miles (~96.6 km). AARGM also features a new satellite and inertial navigation system, a millimeter-wave radar seeker for last-minute guidance, and the ability to send images of the target via datalink – all of which may be included in SiAW.

During Phase 1 of the SiAW competition, the Air Force intends to align the SiAW missile system technical capabilities to the Air Combat Command requirements and to the Air Force Weapon Government Reference Architecture. Digital engineering methodology and model-based systems engineering best practices will be used to establish an integrated digital environment to design, develop, and test the SiAW missile system.