A new data link that will allow NATO ships to launch U.S. missile interceptors was among the developments Tucson-based Raytheon Missile Systems announced at a major defense conference this week in London.

Other developments Raytheon announced at the Defence & Security Equipment international conference included initial deliveries of a new jamming decoy for Air Force testing.

SM-3 data link for NATO

Raytheon said it has completed design and testing of a prototype dual-band data link that will enable interoperability between the Standard Missile series of interceptors and naval radars used by NATO allies.

Taylor Lawrence, president of Raytheon Missile Systems, said in prepared remarks that the new data link will allow for greatly expanded NATO participation in the European Phased Adaptive Approach - the U.S. plan to create a missile shield for Europe using Raytheon's SM-3 missile interceptors.

"This advancement bridges a critical technology gap in air defense interoperability between U.S. and allied nations," Lawrence said. "NATO allies operate naval vessels that could play a major role in ballistic missile surveillance and engagement."

Raytheon's dual-band data link will allow ships that use a European radar system, known as SMART-L/APAR (Signal Multibeam Acquisition Radar for Tracking, L-band/Active Phased Array Radar), to launch the full range of Standard Missiles, which includes SM-2 ship-defense missiles and SM-3 ballistic missile interceptors.

Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and the United Kingdom operate more than 20 naval vessels that utilize versions of the SMART-L/APAR system, made by Thales Nederland.

Currently, various versions of the Standard Missile are used with the Aegis Combat System, the primary weapons command and control system used by the U.S. Navy. The Aegis system, produced by Lockheed Martin, is also used by Japan, Spain, Norway and South Korea.

In 2009, a joint U.S.-Netherlands study concluded the SM-3 could be integrated on a SMART-L/APAR platform, providing non-Aegis ships a viable missile defense capability, Raytheon said.

jamming decoys

Raytheon has delivered the first eight Miniature Air Launched Decoy Jammer (MALD-J) units to the U.S. Air Force for initial operational test and evaluation, the company said at the London conference.

The air-launched MALD protects air crews and their aircraft by duplicating the combat flight profiles and signatures of U.S. and allied aircraft. The modular, programmable craft can carry various payloads, including jammers and electronics; the MALD-J adds radar-jamming capability to the basic MALD platform.

The craft will improve pilot safety once the system reaches initial operational capability in late 2012, said Harry Schulte, Raytheon Missile Systems' vice president of air-warfare systems.

The Air Force awarded Raytheon a $48.9 million contract in May 2010 to begin engineering, manufacturing and design of the MALD-J.

RAM 2 readied

Raytheon and its German industry partner, RAMSYS, completed missile upgrades and integration testing as part of the Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) Block 2 program, Raytheon said.

The program will begin guided flight tests of the naval surface-to-air missile later this year and is expected to enter low-rate production in late 2012.

The partnership completed five control test vehicle flights and met all upgrade requirements for the RAM Block 2, Raytheon said. To keep up with evolving threats, the latest version of the system features enhanced flight characteristics, an updated radio frequency receiver, a new rocket motor and an upgraded autopilot system.

Mini-missile platform

Raytheon said it is seeking to integrate its small Griffin missile onto the Hawker Beechcraft AT-6 light attack aircraft, a single-engine turboprop plane.

Hawker Beechcraft - formed by investors who acquired the former Raytheon Aircraft Co. in 2007 - has adapted the AT-6 from its T-6 trainer for armed reconnaissance and close-air-support duties.

The Griffin, weighing just 44 pounds and 43 inches long, is an air- and ground-launched precision-guided missile designed for use on rotary- and fixed-wing aircraft and ground-launchers.

The Griffin is in production and integrated on the C-130 Harvest Hawk gunship.

Contact Assistant Business Editor David Wichner at dwichner@ azstarnet.com or 573-4181.