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The RATTLRS Penetrator missile - Mach 3 and deadly accurate

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October 18, 2006

The RATTLRS Penetrator missile - Mach 3 and deadly accurate

The RATTLRS Penetrator missile - Mach 3 and deadly accurate

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October 19, 2006 It’s 20 feet long, weighs 2000 pounds, cruises at 70,000 feet and will deliver itself with pinpoint accuracy anywhere within 500 miles within a few minutes of being launched, arriving at a speed greater than Mach 3. Combatants of the United States will no doubt feel particularly uncomfortable after reading this story, because it shows the U.S. military machine is well on the way to achieving its Revolutionary Approach To Time-critical Long Range Strike (RATTLRS) goals. With its speed, accuracy, range and responsiveness, RATTLRS will be able to address a wide variety of target types including mobile, time-critical, hard or buried targets. The tests completed this week by Lockheed Martin were penetrator warhead sled tests against hardened bunkers. During the tests, the RATTLRS airframe was accelerated to supersonic speeds of greater than Mach 2 and slammed into the bunker (pictured). The warhead penetrated cleanly and completely through the concrete barriers.

The RATTLRS technology demonstration program is led by the Office of Naval Research and supported by the U.S. Air Force, NASA, and DARPA, and will create a new standard for time-critical strike weaponry. The end result will be a high-supersonic cruise missile capable of speeds greater than Mach 3 that can be launched from Navy and Air Force platforms including surface ships, submarines, and aircraft. It will be the first weapon system to be designed from the start with this breadth of distributed strike capability. RATTLRS is currently in development and demonstration with its first flight test scheduled for late 2007. Lockheed Martin is the prime weapon system integrator and Rolls Royce-Liberty Works is the engine developer.

RATTLRS, using the unique capability of turbine power systems, can be launched at subsonic speeds, without a booster, and accelerate on its own accord to cruise speeds in excess of Mach 3. RATTLRS will also combine the latest technological advances in accuracy and targeting with high performance non-afterburning turbine technology found in the YJ102R engine. This turbine offers high-supersonic speed, extended range, high fuel efficiency, and the ability to trade speed for increased range. With its speed, accuracy, range and responsiveness, RATTLRS will be able to address a wide variety of target types including mobile, time-critical, hard or buried targets.

The state of the art technologies within RATTLRS will give tomorrow’s warfighters a leap ahead in capability combined with greater flexibility, without increased logistical burden.

Lockheed Martin is teamed with Allison Advanced Development Company (AADC) in the RATTLRS project to develop technologies that will provide an advanced Mach 4+ integrated propulsion system in an operationally traceable airframe. The AADC YJ102R engine provides the supersonic cruise capability of the legendary SR-71 spy plane in a simple and inexpensive engine suitable for an expendable missile. Advances in turbine cooling technology in the 40 years since the SR-71 first flew allow the YJ102R to provide more than six times the specific thrust of the SR-71 engines, allowing the RATTLRS vehicle to cruise at similar Mach numbers without the high fuel consumption of afterburning engines.

Lockheed Martin completed penetrator warhead sled tests to successfully conclude the high-speed payload employment testing component of RATTLRS is a supersonic, science and technology missile flight demonstrator sponsored by the Office of Naval Research.

A simulated nose and inlet structure of an air breathing cruise missile demonstrated warhead penetration performance and survivability against hardened bunkers. During the tests, the RATTLRS airframe was accelerated to supersonic speeds of greater than Mach 2. The warhead penetrated cleanly and completely through the concrete barriers. Recovered hardware shows that the warhead remained structurally intact.

This testing validates that lightweight penetrator warheads, when coupled with high-speed vehicles, provide the penetration depth of significantly heavier penetrators. According to Neil Kacena, vice president, Advanced Development Programs deputy, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, “With this third demonstration, the RATTLRS program has shown that integrated aero-propulsion technologies enable enhanced performance capability for a variety of missions including mobile, time sensitive targets and buried targets.”

The sled test program is part of the overall risk reduction effort for RATTLRS, culminating in flight demonstrations in late 2007. Lockheed Martin conducted the supersonic sled test at the Holloman High Speed Sled Track in New Mexico. Previous sled tests addressed the high speed dispense of guided munitions, while this test demonstrated the performance capability of a high-speed penetrator warhead against a hardened target.

The RATTLRS program is a key component in Lockheed Martin’s goal to develop high-speed weapon systems for joint U.S. customers.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon After Editing or Managing over 50 print publications primarily in the role of a Magazine Doctor, Mike embraced the internet full-time in 1995 and became a "start-up all-rounder" – quite a few start-ups later, he founded Gizmag in 2002. Now he can write again.   All articles by Mike Hanlon
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