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The United States is looking to field a laser-armed unmanned aircraft to intercept intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) towards the middle of the next decade, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) disclosed on 13 June.
In a solicitation posted on the Federal Business Opportunities (FedBizOpps) website, the MDA Advanced Technology Directorate said it requires a high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) with the payload capacity needed to carry a high-energy laser system payload to high altitudes for Boost Phase Intercept (BPI) of ICBMs in the 2023 timeframe.
Performance specifications listed in the RFI call for the HALE UAV to be able to fly higher than 63,000 ft; to have an endurance of greater than 36 hours on-station (plus flight time for notional 3,000 km transit to station); to be able to fly at a cruise speed of less than Mach 0.45 at on-station altitude; to have a payload capacity of at least 5,000 lb (2,268 kg) and as much as 12,500 lb (5,670 kg); have power available for the payload of at least 140 kW and as much as 280 kW for greater than 30 minutes with no loss in platform altitude; to support a one- to two-metre aperture optical payload; have low vibration at altitude, with angular displacements of less than 50 µrad; and to maintain continuous positive ground control.