Fast Boat Threat Faces Hail of Hellfires
Faced with the threat from swarms of small boats. the US Navy is looking to equip the sensor turrets of its shipborne helicopters with the ability to designate multiple targets for simultaneous attack by laser-guided missiles like Hellfire.
A new Office of Naval Research project, called Multi-Target Track and Terminate (MT3), aims to demonstrate a prototype multi-target laser designator on an MH-60 - including at least six simultaneous launches against maritime targets in realistic conditions - within 60 months of contract award. It's not as easy a task as it sounds.
According to ONR the inshore threat to Navy ships ranges from tens of RPG-armed raiders on jet skis to a handful of fast attack boats carrying short-range cruise missiles. A helicopter launched to defend the ship - whether a manned MH-60 or AH-1 or unmanned Fire Scout - must be able to spot the threat among other boats in the area, pick the most threatening, and rapidly engage them. The Navy does not want a repeat of the 2000 suicide attack on the USS Cole in Aden.
The way ONR sees it working, a wide field-of-regard MTI radar or mid-wave IR would cue the narrow field-of-view EO/IR sensor for tracking, identification and prioritization of each target. Six or more boats would then be designated, each with a different pulse code, the laser revisiting each up to 20 times a second to illuminate them for incoming semi-active laser-guided weapons.
There's not much information available on multi-target laser designators. Physical Optics has been working with Navy funding on a ship-mounted system using holographic telescopic optics to provide beam steering. And Boulder Nonlinear Systems is developing a multi-spot laser beam steering system using a liquid-crystal spatial light modulator. But do I know what any of that means? Of course not.
YouTube - CB 90 H with Hellfire