Terminal Seeker for Hypersonics Weapon Systems

S²MARTS Project No. 21-04

Canceled – FY21 budget shortfall and de-prioritization of this requirement.

The Department of Defense (DoD) is seeking prototype support to address to develop and demonstrate a hypersonic-capable EO/IR homing seeker during the terminal guidance phase, capable of withstanding harsh hypersonic conditions, in absence of GPS, while minimizing SizeWeight and Power (SWaP). The seeker design will need to be developed and tested for effectiveness on a hypersonic vehicle. 


Current seeker technology designed for GPS denied environments utilizes electro-optic and infrared (EO/IR) sensors, IMUs, and radar. Dual-mode seekers pairing IR sensors with active radar are being researched and developed for medium and long-range application. Other seeker technology is moving toward fixed, or strap-down, configurations where the optical sensors have a larger field-of-view (FOV). 


The Department of Defense (DoD) utilizes various hardware in seekers for missiles and missile defense applications. Inertial navigation was originally used when the focus was strategic and precision-strike systems. Modern-day guided missile terminal seeker sensor technology includes infrared (IR), electro-optic (EO), GPS, radio frequency (RF) and other electromagnetic sensors. Guided-missile systems may also combine seeking capabilities for increased accuracy or to reduce the possibility of interference. 


The emergence of new capabilities, notably hypersonic vehicles, requires development of hypersonic-capable materials and sensors. Hypersonic vehicles experience high temperatures and elevated levels of shock and vibration.  These conditions introduce a complex problem set for integrating seeker systems onto a hypersonic vehicle. 


It is desired that an EO/IR seeker is developed and tested for a hypersonic vehicle. The resultant EO/IR seeker prototype operates without GPS or in a GPS-denied environment, is capable of withstanding harsh hypersonic conditions, minimizes SWaP, and utilizes technologies for accuracy comparable to, or better than, current seeker technologies. 


The ultimate objective of this effort is to develop prototype hardware and software which will be integrated into a hypersonic flight test campaign, culminating in a full-scale flight test. It will provide a GPS-independent, hypersonic-capable terminal seeker utilizing technology with accuracy comparable to, or better than, current seeker technologies. The required window material and the integration of the window into the aeroshell of the test vehicles will also be included in the effort. Integration into both developmental flight testing and full-scale flight testing is the desired end-state and will require minimal SWaP to permit integration.