Extending the Surveillance Horizon for Improved Ship Self-Defense Against Hypersonic Cruise Missiles

Navy SBIR 21.2 - Topic N212-112
NAVAIR - Naval Air Systems Command
Opens: May 19, 2021 - Closes: June 17, 2021 (12:00pm edt)

N212-112 TITLE: Extending the Surveillance Horizon for Improved Ship Self-Defense Against Hypersonic Cruise Missiles

RT&L FOCUS AREA(S): Hypersonics


The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with section 3.5 of the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.

OBJECTIVE: Develop and demonstrate critical elements of advanced airborne radar system designs for the detection and tracking of supersonic and hypersonic cruise missiles to provide early cueing of ship self-defense systems.

DESCRIPTION: Navy ships face a variety of missile threats. Highly advanced and very capable ship self-defense systems are in place to defeat these threats. However, hypersonic cruise missile threats operating at lower altitudes pose a unique challenge. As opposed to ballistic missile trajectories where Navy guided missile destroyers and cruisers have on the order of several minutes to detect, track, lock onto, and then launch interceptors against a hypersonic reentry vehicle, low flying missiles [Refs 1–3] provide as little as 10 seconds (s) of flight time above the ship’s radar horizon before missile impact. Some supersonic missile threats present similar challenges. An airborne platform, either manned or unmanned, with a suitable radar system operating in the vicinity of the ship could—in principle—dramatically extend the engagement timeline by providing early detection, tracking, and cueing to the ship. The most obvious candidate aircraft to host the radar system would be on high altitude long-endurance (HALE) and medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aircraft (UA). Hosting this desired capability on existing Navy airborne radar systems is very desirable and worthy of consideration. Even when a threat vector is identified so as to constrain the radar surveillance volume, the detection and tracking timeline for single or multiple inbound missiles whose radar return may be buried within a plasma envelope is extremely challenging. The desired solution is a radar mode and signal processing approach capable of being hosted in modern Navy airborne radar systems.

Work produced in Phase II may become classified. Note: The prospective contractor(s) must be U.S. owned and operated with no foreign influence as defined by DoD 5220.22-M, National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual, unless acceptable mitigating procedures can and have been implemented and approved by the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) formerly Defense Security Service (DSS). The selected contractor must be able to acquire and maintain a secret level facility and Personnel Security Clearances. This will allow contractor personnel to perform on advanced phases of this project as set forth by DCSA and NAVAIR in order to gain access to classified information pertaining to the national defense of the United States and its allies; this will be an inherent requirement. The selected company will be required to safeguard classified material IAW DoD 5220.22-M during the advanced phases of this contract.

PHASE I: Develop, design, and demonstrate feasibility of a high-fidelity target-and-clutter model to establish radar system mode and signal processing requirements when operating from a HALE or MALE UA platform utilizing open-source literature on potential-threat, anti-ship, hypersonic cruise missile systems, their flight profiles, and expected radar cross sections, including the potential plasma surrounding a hypersonic missile. With those requirements, develop conceptual radar system mode implementation concepts and evaluate those using the missile and radar models. Identify the most promising approaches from a detection and tracking performance perspective. Prepare a Phase II plan that demonstrates operational and technical feasibility of the proposed approach. The Phase I effort will include prototype plans to be developed under Phase II.

PHASE II: Refine the radar architecture using threat-and-host platform information provided by the Navy. Increase model fidelity, as required, to more confidently characterize the radar’s performance in an operational environment. Refine the radar system performance requirements as necessary based on modeling results. Demonstrate and document results of tests of critical technologies identified in Phase I. At the end of Phase II, a prototype radar system design should be completed and delivered to the Navy. The design should be sufficiently detailed to inform the scope of a Phase III development program.

Work produced in Phase II may become classified. See Description for details.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Complete development, perform final testing, and integrate and transition the final solution to naval airborne radar systems either through the radar system OEM or through third party radar mode developers.

The algorithmic approaches could be utilized by a very wide variety of airborne, surface, and space-based radar systems for the detection and tracking of very high-speed objects including those that are moving in a high-clutter environment.


  1. Howard, A. "Fast and furiously accurate: Conventional hypersonic weapons need precision to match their speed.." U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, 145(7), July 2019, p. 1397. https://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2019/july/fast-and-furiously-accurate.
  2. Osborn, K. "Could the U.S. military use lasers to kill Russia or China’s hypersonic missiles?" The National Interest, August 27, 2019. https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/could-us-military-use-lasers-kill-russia-or-chinas-hypersonic-missiles-76416.
  3. Mizokami, K. "Russia’s new warships will pack hypersonic missiles." Popular Mechanics, December 12, 2019. https://www.popularmechanics.com/military/weapons/a30200046/russian-warships-hypersonic-missiles/.

KEYWORDS: Radar; Hypersonic; Cruise Missile; Ship Self Defense; Detection in Clutter; Anti-Ship Missiles


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