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USAF buys Miniature Air Launched Decoy (MALD) for use by F-16

May 27, 2003 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The United States Air Force paid $80 million to Raytheon for the development of a Miniature Air Launched Decoy (MALD) demonstrator. Initially, the decoy will be carried on F-16 and B-52 aircraft.
The Miniature Air Launched Decoy is designed to mimic the radar signature and flight characteristics of a fighter or bomber, enticing the enemy to fire upon the much smaller and lighter and less expensive decoy rather than the attack aircraft themselves.

A single design will allow the decoy to mimic either a fighter or bomber, and the decoy will be carried initially on F-16 fighter jets and B-52 bombers. It will use a generic profile of a fighter or bomber, not a specific aircraft. The type of aircraft being mimicked can be configured internally in the MALD.

Once it is launched, the MALD is completely autonomous. It will fly a predetermined route at a predetermined speed and altitude. The avionics are based on systems used in Raytheon Missile Systems' Paveway bombs.

The program is using new technology but has been under development since 1996, when San Diego-based Teledyne Ryan Aeronautical Systems started work on the project.

Northrop Grumman bought Teledyne Ryan and took over the project. The first successful flight of the decoy came in January 1999.

Raytheon's team includes Hamilton Sundstrand, which will develop the engine; Raytheon Goleta, which will lead the development of the payload design; CEI, which will work on the composite structure; and Moog, which will provide the actuators.

Test flights of the decoy's Raytheon designs are slated to begin in the first quarter of fiscal 2007 with the first 150 production units coming in the second quarter of fiscal 2008.

The full production run of 1,350 additional units will come after that. Since 1996, the target price has gone from about $30,000 per decoy to between $75,000 and $125,000 due to design changes.