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.