Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles
Copyright © 2002-2007 Andreas Parsch

Northrop Grumman (Teledyne Ryan) ADM-160A MALD
Raytheon ADM-160B/C MALD

In 1995, DARPA initiated the MALD (Miniature Air-Launched Decoy) ACTD (Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration) program, and in November 1996, Teledyne Ryan (now Northrop Grumman) was awarded a development contract for the ADM-160A flight vehicle. The ACTD called for a small low-cost expendable decoy for SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defense) missions. The first flight of an ADM-160A occurred in January 1999, and the test and evaluation program had been completed by 2001.

The ADM-160A is powered by a Hamilton Sundstrand TJ-50 miniature turbojet, and has flip-out wings for compact carriage. It uses a GPS-aided navigation system, and can fly missions with up to 256 predefined waypoints. The mission profile is preprogrammed, but can be redefined by the pilot of the launching aircraft until immediately before launch. MALD's main mission payload is a Northrop Grumman SAS (Signature Augmentation Subsystem) with various active radar enhancers for a range of frequencies. The SAS can simulate any aircraft in the inventory, from large-RCS B-52Hs to low-observable stealth aircraft.

Images: Northrop Grumman

The ADM-160A can be carried by all current tactical strike aircraft of the U.S. military, and the USAF at one time planned to procure several 1000 MALDs. This requirement has been drastically reduced over time, partially because of increasing costs. In late 2001, the Air Force planned to procure about 150 ADM-160As beginning in 2003 for an SDD (System Development and Demonstration) program. The SDD was also to evaluate other MALD derivatives, including an active radar-jamming vehicle. However, after initial delays of the SDD, because the USAF could not determine the desired configuration of the SDD vehicles, the MALD program was effectively ended by the Air Force.

The MALI (Maniature Air-Launched Interceptor) was an armed derivative of MALD, for possible use against cruise missiles. MALI had a sharper nose profile, increased wing swep, and a more powerful (0.53 kN (120 lb) thrust) TJ-50M engine for short supersonic performance. An IIR (Imaging Infrared) seeker was used for terminal homing on the target, and mid-course guidance was via a command link to air surveillance platforms like the E-3 AWACS. The MALI has undergone a test and development program, which ended in December 2002, when the first supersonic flight was made.

In late 2002, the USAF opened an industry-wide competition for further development and procurement of MALD, and all major American aerospace companies expressed interest. In May 2003, the award of an SDD contract to Raytheon was announced, and at the same time, the designation ZADM-160B was assigned to the forthcoming design. The Raytheon ZADM-160B design is larger and heavier than the ADM-160A, with a length of 2.85 m (9 ft 4 in), a wingspan of 1.37 m (4 ft 5.8 in) and a weight of around 110 kg (250 lb). It is powered by a Sundstrand TJ-150 turbojet.

Image: Raytheon

Between May and July 2006, ADM-160B prototype vehicles were successfully released from F-16s in a series of nine flight tests. The first powered flight of an ADM-160B finally occurred in June 2007. The DATM-160B is a completely inert variant for load crew training, while the designation ADM-160C refers to a further modified version of the -160B. However, no information about the nature of the ADM-160C's upgrades is available at the time of this writing.

The USAF currently plans to procure up to 1500 ADM-160s, and start of full-scale production is tentatively planned for 2008. The U.S. Navy never had serious intentions to procure the MALD and relies on further developments of the proven ADM-141C ITALD (Improved Tactical Air-Launched Decoy) instead.


Note: Data given by several sources show slight variations. Figures given below may therefore be inaccurate!

Data for ADM-160A:

Length2.38 m (7 ft 9.8 in)
Wingspan0.65 m (2 ft 1.4 in)
Diameter15.2 cm (6 in)
Weight45 kg (100 lb)
SpeedMach 0.8
Ceiling> 9000 m (30000 ft)
Range> 460 km (250 nm)
Endurance> 20 min
PropulsionHamilton Sundstrand TJ-50 turbojet; 0.22 kN (50 lb)

Main Sources

[1] Kenneth Munson (ed.): "Jane's Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Targets, Issue 15", Jane's, 2000
[2] DARPA Website
[3] Graham Warwick: "Low-cost cruise killer in first supersonic flight", article in "Flight International", 17-30 December 2002
[4] Raytheon Website

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Last Updated: 25 July 2007