Nov 302012

Some information is starting to emerge about the Lockheed “Cuda” missile previously discussed. “The Aviationist” has a brief article describing this as a radar guided hit-to-kill missile with no warhead… it destroys the target by actually whacking into it. While this is just dandy for taking out warheads, missiles and perhaps even fighters, it would seem minimally useful for taking out large aircraft such as transports of bombers. Sure, having something twice the size of a man ram into your plane at Mach 2 is sure going to mess up the paint job and you might need some Bondo to patch up the hole, it probably wouldn’t be as effective as a few pounds of C-4 and a bunch of nails.

The illustration shows a missile laid out much like the Harpoon anti-ship missile, but clearly meant for higher speed. The most interest aspect of the design is the cylindrical region near the nose, covered with a multitude of dots. What is this? My guess would be that this might be a large number of small solid rocket divert motors designed to help pitch the missile hard over in order to nail incoming jinking missiles head-on.

 Posted by at 9:22 pm
  • publiusr

    I wouldn’t be surprised. I’m still amazed by footage of Kinetic Kill Vehicles hovering over nets and how rock steady they were in hover compared to Carmack’s toys, with the plumbing unable to catch up to the computer its linked too–rather like trying to find a shower setting that isn’t scald or freeze–it’s hard to get right.

    I wonder if those dots might be some kind of detectors though

    • Donut Argh

      “how rock steady they were in hover compared to Carmack’s toys”

      Is that fair, though? Carmack’s vehicles have motors whose primary purpose is to deliver payload up and down, while KKV’s motors are designed for accurate intercept.

      • publiusr

        Well, you have to translate around at some point–so it isn’t straight up and down. I think people expect too much of computers. At small scales, a liquid fueled rocket can get out from under you pretty fast.

        Now I remember folks complaining about how they thought the Phil Bono-type Blue Origin craft was too big. Not so. To put it more simply, a larger rocket allows more time to correct–as in Energiya’s first flight where it had to gimble quickly with dead-weight Polyus on the side. A smaller vehicle would not have allowed time to deal with piggyback payloads.

        Also, when you have a larger craft with a lot of nozzles–and don’t have a wonky KORD system N-1 did–it allows better throttling than trying to deal with one nozzle for both lift and directionality. Again, the plumbing lags behind the computer.

  • SMSgt Mac

    Thanks for the link on this. I think I’ll have some fun with it. This missile concept definitely has a warhead BTW – the yellow band gives it away. I’m wondering if the nature of the end game this is designed for is hinted at in the name: are those ‘dots’ where dense metal shrapnel ‘teeth’ blosssom from to shred the inside of the target? Just one possible explanation.

    • Cthel

      It might be a “lethality booster” – a small, impact/delay fused warhead designed to explode inside the target. Rather like the original Rapier SAM

      • SMSgt Mac

        Entirely plausible. I’m leaning towards that as well. I’m wondering how much of the propulsion, warhead, and control systems are evolutionalry adaptations of off the shelf, or new tech lifted from relatively-recently cancelled programs.

    • Chris Hlynka

      The yellow band just means that it is a live “Warshot” rather than an inert training dummy.

      • SMSgt Mac

        MilStd-709D tells me the color code hasn’t changed. The yellow band indicates HE which tells me “Warhead”, the brown bands are Low Explosive which tells me Rocket Motor. The difference BTW is that ‘low’ explosives tend to burn under most conditions unless flawed or compromised. Pre-70s, that code wasn’t always followed. I had experience with AIM-4 training missiles that were obsoleted in the 70s, that were visually indistinguishable from live ones from about ten feet away, and experts would have had trouble without much closer examination. We couldn’t turn them in because the stock number had been cancelled, and we couldn’t throw them away because they looked live. Hilarity ensued when someone tried putting one in an off-base dumpster.

        • Anonymous

          Gentlemen: Keep in mind that the illustration is small, low on detail and unclear just who produced it. Is it a photo of a prototype? A photo of a display model? A computer generated rendering produced by the engineering department? A CG rendering from the PR department? Chances are fair that it’s the latter, in which case spurious details could be added in order to confuse, or added simply because it looks cool.

          • SMSgt Mac

            Complete agreement: I freely acknowledge that I am speculating on the concept shown, as it is shown. I would also tend to think this is closer to a relatively mature concept (not neccessarily design) vs. a marketeer’s imagination, mostly due to the spokesperson’s comments at the Aviationist’s, regarding government reluctance to declassify details. In any case, I agree with you as to the most interesting part of the design shown being the ‘little dots’. I’ve thought of perhaps a dozen reasons for them, but the graphic, as you’ve noted, provides little clue as to what would be ‘likely’ vs. possible. Must do research!

          • Wally Moose

            I agree with Scott on that interpretation of the colors etc. The information he posted about this being a hit to kill concepts would be in line with other missiles that Lockeed is currently building like THAAD which is hit to kill and uses front end divert rockets to ensure it can correct rapidly in the last moments of the intercept.

  • Anonymous

    I would say those little dots are solids for terminal engagement against maneuvering targets. The missile might well stage, and ditch the boost section, leaving only a kill vehicle section with the radar and solids

    The gas dynamic maneuvering would then be more effective (radically) with the reduced mass, and have much less drag than a finned missile.If it stages aft of the yellow band, it would have an extremely efficient artillery shell aerodynamic profile- and that makes me start wondering if we’re talking double regular AIM-9X ranges, in a loft with mid-course updates.

    Alternatives would be non-staging, but high divert potential, possibly to shoot down incoming SAMs and AAMs. You’d need extreme finesse to make the hit-to-kill trick work, which the solid diverters could ensure.