SA homes in on hi-tech mis­siles


TOP-SE­CRET work on an au­tonomous hom­ing mis­sile that can take out su­per­sonic enemy mis­siles is be­ing con­ducted at Ed­in­burgh Parks.

The next ver­sion of the Evolved Sea Spar­row Mis­sile – a crit­i­cal de­fence against po­ten­tial at­tacks from China, Rus­sia, or North Korea – is on its way. BAE Sys­tems has al­ready pro­duced 3000 Thrust Vec­tor Con­trollers for the ex­ist­ing ESSM.

The tech­nol­ogy al­lows a mis­sile, af­ter it is launched, to pitch it­self over. The Sea Spar­row flies into the air, then swoops down as it tar­gets the enemy, skim­ming along the ocean’s sur­face to in­ter­cept it and de­stroy it.

It is a hi-tech de­fence against the su­per­sonic mis­siles that can duck and weave to avoid nor­mal mis­siles, and go so fast they can strike within sec­onds of be­ing spot­ted.

Michael Partridge, BAE’s Fu­ture Tech­nolo­gies pro­gram man­ager, told The Ad­ver­tiser the abil­ity to pitch over is the same tech­nol­ogy used in its sis­ter mis­sile, the Nulka, also an Ade­laide prod­uct.

He said ship radars de­tected in­com­ing threats and the com­bat man­age­ment sys­tem then worked out which mis­sile to de­ploy. “It’s a su­per­sonic sur­face-to-air mis­sile,” Mr Partridge said. “It’s de­signed to be launched from a ship to in­ter­cept an air­borne threat. That sur­face-to-air ca­pa­bil­ity is crit­i­cal in the navy.

“You launch it to get a mis­sile that is com­ing to you.”

The Nulka mis­sile shoots out of a ship then turns and hov­ers on its end while pro­ject­ing a “de­coy” ship to lure enemy mis­siles away from the real ship and into the wa­ter.

The ESSMs are used on Aus­tralian war­ships and by a 12-na­tion con­sor­tium. That con­sor­tium can sell to other coun­tries they con­sider safe.

There has been re­cent crit­i­cism that Aus­tralia can­not guar­an­tee that ul­ti­mately Aus­tralian weapons could be used against civil­ians – for ex­am­ple, in the Ye­men civil war.

Raytheon is the ul­ti­mate man­u­fac­turer of the 280kg mis­sile, which can travel more than 50km. The next evo­lu­tion of the Sea Spar­row is al­ready be­ing tested. Pro­duc­tion will be­gin next year, and when the pro­gram reaches full pro- duc­tion in 2021, it will be worth about $32 mil­lion a year.

BAE Sys­tems chief ex­ec­u­tive Gabby Costi­gan said it was a “great ex­am­ple of a global pro­gram that re­quired worldlead­ing tech­nol­ogy”.

“The so­lu­tion was found here in Aus­tralia,” she said.

“The ESSM pro­gram, to­gether with the Nulka Mis­sile De­coy pro­gram, have es­tab­lished BAE Sys­tems as Aus­tralia’s ca­pa­bil­ity provider of guided weapons and au­tonomous sys­tems to our de­fence force and al­lied na­tions.”

CRIT­I­CAL DE­FENCE; An Evolved Sea Spar­row Mis­sile.

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