A small company based in Melbourne has developed the world’s first low-cost, supersonic training missile.
The EVADER’s supersonic ramjet engine and its rugged airframe and autonomous control system have been developed entirely in-house by Moorabbin-based Grollo Aerospace. The company in July submitted a proposal for a $2.85 million Defence Innovation Hub contract that would complete EVADER’s development.
To train its combat system operators, the RAN currently simulates missile attacks using manned or unmanned aircraft - but these are slow, have to fly unrepresentative flight profiles for safety reasons, and have a large radar cross-section. RAN has also fired artillery shells near ships, but these have the wrong altitude and trajectory.
At present, the RAN can only use the ground-launched Coyote at the US Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii to test and prove its ships’ anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems. Coyote is mainly a Test and Evaluation (T&E) missile; neither Navy has a cheaper system it can use for routine training, says former RAAF Air Commander and Test Pilot AVM (Ret’d) Peter Nicholson.
“Sailors currently don’t have a representative target they can practice on,” founder and Chief Technology Officer Mark Grollo said. “All ships are vulnerable to high-speed, sea-skimming missiles, and these are proliferating: they’re getting faster and more agile, and there are more of them.”
According to the company, EVADER, which is 4.2 metres long and weighs about 90kg, can accurately replicate the flight path and trajectory of a genuine, sea- skimming anti-ship missile, including some terminal manoeuvres.
EVADER is the product of seven years of self-funded R&D by Grollo Aerospace and recent cooperation with DST.
At just A$250,000 each, EVADER will be less than one sixteenth of the cost of the existing standard US Navy test missile, the Orbital Dynamics GQM-163 Coyote, which costs about US$4 million (AUD$5.7 million) each, according to Grollo.
EVADER has a stainless steel, solid-state ram jet engine, designed by Grollo, which enables supersonic flight using standard JP1 jet fuel, without requiring a rocket motor or any expensive alloys in its construction.
Grollo Aerospace has now submitted a proposal for a second Defence Innovation Hub contract worth A$2.85 million which is designed to confirm EVADER’s supersonic performance and the integrity of its ‘fail safe’ mode when used to simulate high-speed incoming attacking missiles.
This would take EVADER across the ‘valley of death’ for high-technology projects, according to Dr Bill Schofield, CEO of aadiDefence and a former Deputy Chief Defence Scientist: “We’ll have reached Technology Readiness Level 7 – demonstrating a prototype of the entire system in an operational environment. That will confirm we’ve got an initial supersonic air target capability that we can offer to the ADF.”