WASHINGTON — Leidos-owned Dynetics has been tight-lipped about the product it offered to the U.S. Army and demonstrated in a live-fire event for the service’s enduring indirect fires protection capability, designed to defend against a variety of airborne threats.
While it’s been well-known that one team consisted of Rafael and Raytheon, offering up the Iron Dome launcher and Tamir interceptor, Dynetics would not previously publicly admit its participation in the competition.
The Army is using Iron Dome as an interim cruise missile defense capability as it works to adopt an enduring solution to counter drones and cruise missiles. Part of that effort involved releasing a solicitation to industry for a prototyping effort and hosting a shoot-off for two teams at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. Eventually, the service will add a capability to counter rockets, artillery and mortar threats.
Each team that participated in the shoot-off brought a launcher and interceptor combination. The demonstrations happened over several weeks beginning at the end of April and ending in early May.
Defense News first reported that, according to several sources familiar with the activity, Dynetics was bringing a launcher based off the Army’s internally developed, but then canceled, Multi-Mission Launcher along with the Raytheon-produced AIM-9X Sidewinder interceptor.
Dynetics would not tell reporters what interceptor it brought to the live-fire event as part of its offering due to an internal decision based on the interceptor manufacturer’s desire not to name it, according to Ronnie Chronister, the company’s, senior vice president for weapons technology and manufacturing.
“Our selection of that effector was based on the fact that the Army’s sense of urgency was very high in getting capability into the field,” he said during a June 3 briefing.
But its launcher — Enduring Shield — takes know-how from the Multi-Mission Launcher’s development and improves upon it, Chronister said. “Our offering is not MML,” he said, “but it is derived from the heritage and the things that we’ve learned from MML.”
Chronister said the company redesigned the stack system of the MML to obtain cost efficiencies and has worked to make the launcher more producible and less complex, which is critical to the Army’s requirement to build 16 launchers and 80 interceptors in a short period of time.
“Our offering has a 360-degree envelope and an ability to engage multiple targets simultaneously,” he said, adding that it was demonstrated to fully integrate with the Army’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System — a key requirement.
The system is built with a modular, open-system architecture, Chronister said, meaning any interceptor can be used with the launcher.
“We are basically missile agnostic,” he said, “so if the customer comes back and wants to integrate another effector into our system, we have designed it such that that integration will be seamless and relatively easy to accomplish.”
The MML had trouble with reloading, and the AIM-9X had issues with overheating. But Chronister said that with changes to the launcher, all issues — found over three years ago — are resolved, including thermal problems with the interceptor itself.
The company has relevant experience designing launchers — from its history on the MML program to current efforts to build the launcher for the Army’s ground-launched hypersonic missile. Dynetics is also building the first glide bodies for those hypersonic missiles.
The company received the contract roughly 20 months ago to build the launcher for hypersonic missiles. Chronister said the firm is already delivering hardware to the Army.
Dynetics also has experience on the Indirect Fires Protection Capability program, developing a 300-kilowatt laser on a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck, to serve as a possible countermeasure for an enduring solution.
Taking its work hardening cyber and electronic warfare systems, Dynetics is also baking into its IFPC offering the ability to protect it from cyber and EW attacks, according to Chronister.
The Army is expected to choose a winner to proceed in building an initial lot of prototypes in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2021. The winner must deliver all prototypes to the Army in time to reach initial operational capability by the fourth quarter of fiscal 2023.
“We feel very confident in our ability to meet this aggressive schedule that the Army has laid out,” Chronister said. “We have invested our own internal funds, our research and development funds into this program, so we have skin the game with this one.”
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.