The Department of Defense's Miniature Air-Launched Decoy (MALD) successfully flew for the first time, Saturday, Jan. 9, 1999, at the U.S. Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The flight met the test objectives of safe separation, engine start, autonomous flight and safe recovery.
At 7:40 a.m. (PST), MALD was launched from an F-16 provided by the 416th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base. The launch occurred at an altitude of 20,000 feet, while the aircraft was flying at 460 knots true air speed. The MALD separated cleanly and then flew at an altitude of approximately 20,000 feet at a speed of 0.75 Mach.
This flight is the first of 20 flights scheduled to occur over the next four months at Edwards Air Force Base. Future flight tests will expand the flight envelope and demonstrate MALD performance objectives such as operation of its payload: the signature augmentation system.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is conducting the MALD program as an Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) to provide the Air Force with a small, inexpensive, air-launched decoy system for suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD). MALD stimulates, dilutes and confuses enemy integrated air defense systems by transmitting radio frequency energy. This allows strike aircraft to locate and disable the enemy air defense units with much less risk to pilots' lives.
Affordability is a major focus of the MALD ACTD. The primary objective, and only firm program requirement, is to develop and build a MALD system with an average unit flyaway price of no greater than $30,000 (in FY 1995 dollars) for 3,000 units. In order to achieve this objective, MALD makes maximum use of off-the-shelf, commercial components and processes, such as the commercial PC104 electronic standard for the MALD avionics package, and the sheet molding compound manufacturing process used to fabricate the composite airframe.
MALD is being developed in response to an Air Force Air Combat Command, Langley Air Force Base, Va., mission needs statement. DARPA is using the Air Force Aeronautical Systems Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., as its contracting agent. Air National Guard units will provide operational demonstration support.
Teledyne Ryan Aeronautical, San Diego, Calif., is the MALD prime contractor. Principal suppliers on the contractor team include Sundstrand Power Systems, San Diego, Calif. (miniature turbojet engine); Northrop Grumman, Rolling Meadows, Ill. (signature augmentation system); and GDE Systems, San Diego, Calif. (mission planning system).