Miniature Self-Defense Munition Again on AFRL Docket

The Air Force appears to be renewing its push for a Miniature Self-Defense Munition that could protect aircraft in dangerous combat environments, though government and industry are mum on the program’s progress over the past few years.

Eglin AFB, Fla., is hosting companies at a June 19 industry day ahead of a development contract competition, according to a May 23 notice. The post offers little information about what capabilities the Air Force is pursuing, but says the gathering will “promote the continued development of the MSDM, … and [will] seek input from industry [on] how to better improve the scope [of work] to meet desired outcomes.”

The industry day comes at a time when the Air Force is increasingly interested in technologies like directed energy that could be installed on a range of military aircraft—particularly large, slower platforms without stealth capabilities, like intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, transport, and tanker planes—to protect them from encroaching adversaries or incoming weapons.

Eglin spokeswoman Jasmine Porterfield declined to answer emailed questions from Air Force Magazine, saying only that the Air Force Research Laboratory’s munitions directorate launched the MSDM program in 2015, when it solicited concept studies. “The MSDM program objective is to provide the capability to kinetically defeat enemy threats to aircraft in [anti-access, area-denial] environments,” Porterfield said.

Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and Boeing also declined to comment on the program.

FlightGlobal reported in 2015 the Air Force was funding Lockheed’s design for “a weapon to be dispensed from a fighter jet, hone in on an incoming missile, and destroy it with a direct hit.”

The publication wrote that under Lockheed’s idea, a pilot would fire a radar-guided MSDM when an incoming missile is detected. The company argued the interceptor munition “could dramatically increase the internal load-outs of fighters such as the F-22 and F-35,” by replacing Boeing’s Small Diameter Bombs or Raytheon’s Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile.

In 2016, the Defense Department also awarded Raytheon a research contract worth up to $14 million to develop two types of “next-generation, air-launched, tactical missiles” through early 2021.

“Contractor will work to increase the number of missiles carried on a single sortie, increase the effectiveness of each missile, and enhance the platform survivability against all threats in an anti-access, area-denial environment,” the Pentagon said. “The MSDM will support miniaturized weapon capabilities for air superiority by enabling close-in platform self-defense and penetration into contested A2/AD environment with little to no impact to payload capacity.”

The contract covered another complementary concept, the Small Advanced Capability Missile, which pursued affordable, small, air-to-air ordnance for high-end aircraft.