The US Navy has successfully launched a SLAM-ER missile on a test range at the US Naval Air Warfare Centre in California. The launch marked the first developmental flight test of the SLAM-ER’s automatic target acquisition (ATA) capability.
The missile was launched from an F/A-18C and flew a predetermined flight path that included seven different waypoints. At each waypoint the SLAM-ER changed course, avoiding hazardous terrain.
Several miles from the target, the ATA system automatically acquired the target and began providing real-time targeting cues to the pilot in a second F/A-18C standoff control aircraft.
The SLAM-ER guidance system also used ATA measurements to guide the missile to the target. Prior to impact the pilot in the second F/A-18C selected the exact hit point using SLAM-ER’s Stop Motion Aimpoint Update feature. The SLAM-ER scored a direct hit on the selected target aimpoint.
In full-rate production and deployed with the fleet, SLAM-ER is said to provide the US Navy with surgical strike capability against high-value, fixed land targets, ships in port, or ships at sea.
Designed for deployment from carrier-based and land-based aircraft, SLAM-ER can be adapted for ship launch or from ranges of more than 150 nautical miles.
The ATA system, which adds a small, internal hardware module to the missile, provides the pilot or weapon system operator with real-time target cueing in a complex environment on the F/A-18’s cockpit display.
SLAM-ER’s ATA pattern-matching algorithms are then said to compare the on-board reference image generated during the mission to the missile’s infrared seeker image, and automatically locates the pre-planned aim-point in the target scene.
When ATA is activated, the control pilot retains all of SLAM-ER’s precision terminal control capability. If the pilot chooses not to intervene, ATA is capable of providing automatic terminal guidance to the target.
Boeing is currently under contract with the US Navy to produce 346 SLAM-ERs, with production expected to continue beyond 2004. Approximately 700 SLAM missiles in the U.S. Navy arsenal will be retrofitted with the SLAM-ER upgrade.