Tags: Missile | Madness

Missile Madness

Thursday, 09 September 2004 12:00 AM

In 1991, the Navy canceled the replacement for the Vandal. The AQM-127 SLAT (Supersonic Low-Altitude Target) project was terminated because of climbing costs and long delays. The move left the Navy with a limited inventory of usable Vandal missiles to act as realistic targets.

In 1992, the Clinton administration took over and three years passed before a replacement for the aging Vandal was selected. However, President Clinton decided to purchase a Russian-made missile for the U.S. Navy.

The Clinton decision came after Vice President Al Gore tripped to Moscow in 1995 and shook hands with Russian leaders. As a result of U.S.-Russian politics, the Navy was stuck with the Zvezda-Strela MA-31 – a derivative of Zvezda's Kh-31 NATO, code name "Krypton," anti-ship missile.

Yet the Russian Krypton was not ready. It required more money and lots of additional development to turn it into an operational weapon. Thus, the Clinton administration gave U.S. defense dollars to Moscow.

In 1995, according to the official U.S. Navy documentation, McDonnell Douglas proceeded under Clinton administration orders to help Russia develop the Krypton missile as part of a U.S. Navy target drone project. The catch: The missile did not work, was highly dangerous to fire and needed improvement to meet the specifications.

According to documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, U.S. Navy and McDonnell Douglas engineers suggested a series of "P3I," or "pre-planned product improvements," to extend the range of the Krypton, improve its flight performance and enable jet fighters to safely fire the weapon without blowing up.

"The MA-31 [Krypton] target will need P3I [pre-planned product improvements] in order to meet the range and ground/surface launch requirements for the Supersonic Sea Skimming Target program (SSST). The range of the MA-31 target in its FCT configuration is approximately 15 nm [nautical miles] at low altitude," states the 1995 review document.

According to the 1995 McDonnell Douglas review, one "extended range option" given to the Russian contractor Zvezda "adds an auxiliary fuel tank, a reduced drag nose cone, changes the fuel to JP-10 (which has a higher specific energy content than the Russian fuel), and modifies the ramjet nozzle. The extended range modification is intended to increase range to approximately 42 nm [nautical miles] at 10m [meter] altitude."

Another more crucial design improvement given to Russia involved "Ground Jettison Testing" done by the U.S. defense contractor against the Russian missile. According to a 1995 program review document, the Russian-built AKY-58M missile launcher for the Krypton was fatally flawed and could destroy the firing plane.

"In three emergency jettison tests, the lanyard stayed with the launch rail instead of with the target. In all cases the booster would have been armed, and ignition could have occurred for any of several reasons," stated the 1995 report.

"MDAC [McDonnell Douglas] has determined that use of a longer lanyard and slower separation velocity would allow proper operation of the emergency jettison sequence. The problem has been turned over to the Russians for resolution," states the 1995 review document.

Despite the lucrative deal with Washington, Russia began to market the missile on the open market as soon as the U.S. engineers worked out all the bugs. In 1999, Russia negotiated a multibillion-dollar arms deal with China for the now operational and newly improved Krypton.

One such export deal supplied the Krypton missile as part of the Russian SU-30MK fighter jet sale to China. Both the SU-30MK N-001 and the J-10 Zhemchoung radars are designed to support the advanced Zvezda Kh-31 Krypton cruise missile supplied by Russia to the People's Liberation Army Air Force.

In fact, according to the new Russian weapons pact with Beijing, China will eventually manufacture and export the improved Krypton under license to the Middle East and Asia. Ironically, the Krypton would not have been available to China without the assistance of the Clinton administration and the U.S. tax dollars sent to Moscow.

Still, the Krypton was a failure inside America. It could not meet the specifications laid out by the Navy despite several attempts to revise them down.

In addition, the U.S. deal with Moscow fell through because the facts surrounding the Krypton deal became public. Another good reason to cancel was the excessive price of the Krypton – reportedly over $200,000 a copy.

Four years later and 12 years after the new search began, the U.S. Navy finally got its missile. Orbital Sciences Corp. (OSC) was awarded a contract for development of the GQM-163A "Coyote" non-recoverable target vehicle.

The Coyote target missile design integrates a four-inlet solid-fuel ducted rocket ramjet propulsion system into a compact missile airframe 18 feet long and 14 inches in diameter. The Coyote is boosted to supersonic speed by using a decommissioned Navy MK 70 solid rocket motor for the first stage.

The highly maneuverable Coyote achieves cruise speeds of over twice the speed of sound. The range of the target vehicle system is approximately 50 nautical miles at altitudes of less than 20 feet above the sea surface.

On Aug. 27, 2004, Orbital Sciences announced that it carried out the second successful flight test of the Coyote GQM-163A Supersonic Sea-Skimming Target.

"We are very pleased with the results of the recent flight test of the Coyote target vehicle," said Mr. Keven Leith, vice president of Navy Programs for Orbital's Launch Systems Group. "By meeting all the objectives for the flight test, we believe we are well down the road toward moving the program from its developmental phase to providing the Navy with a robust operational anti-ship target system."

The Coyote has arrived just in time. The aging 1950s Vandal missiles are running out. Today, the few remaining Vandals act as high-speed targets to test and train U.S. Navy anti-missile warships.

The Vandal, designed during the era of the slide-rule, can still outpace even the best air defense systems. The Vandal set a blistering performance, exceeding 1,500 miles an hour at less than 9 feet above the surface.

Eight years of Clinton indecision left nothing to show – at least for the U.S. Navy. The millions sent to Moscow ended up developing yet another missile threat aimed at America. The Clinton legacy lives on in the Krypton missile pointed at U.S. forces.



Charles Smith will be on:

The Jerry Hughes Show on Friday, 9/10/04, at 3 p.m. Eastern time. Show information at http://www.cilamerica.com.

The George Putnam Show on Friday, 9/10/04, at 1 p.m. Pacific time (4 p.m. Eastern) on KSPA, 1510 AM, Ontario, Calif., and on the CRN Radio Network: Web radio link at www.crni.net.

The Charlie Smith Show on the American Freedom Network on Monday, 9/13/04, at 11 a.m. Eastern time. Show information at http://www.americanewsnet.com/

The Jeff Rense Show on Wednesday, 9/15/04, at 10 p.m. Eastern time. Show information at http://www.rense.com


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In 1991, the Navy canceled the replacement for the Vandal.The AQM-127 SLAT (Supersonic Low-Altitude Target) project was terminated because of climbing costs and long delays.The move left the Navy with a limited inventory of usable Vandal missiles to act as realistic...
Thursday, 09 September 2004 12:00 AM
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