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MA-31

MA-31
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Type Target drone
Place of origin Russia
United States
Service history
In service 1996-2007
Used by United States Navy
Production history
Manufacturer Boeing, Zvezda-Strela
Specifications
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Engine Solid fuel rocket in initial stage, ramjet for rest of trajectory
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Operational
range
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Speed Mach 3.5
Launch
platform
F-4 Phantom II

The MA-31 was a conversion of the Kh-31 anti-ship missile, developed by the Soviet Union during the 1980s, for use as a target drone by the United States Navy. Although the missile proved successful in this role, political complications resulted in the type being only an interim solution, and only a small number of the missiles were acquired.

Kh-31 development

The Kh-31 missile was developed by Zvezda-Strela in the Soviet Union starting in 1977 for service as a long-range anti-ship missile and anti-radiation missile, first being flown in 1982.[1] Derived from the P-270 Moskit missile,[1] the Kh-31 is conventional in shape, and has cruciform fins made from titanium,[2] with a rocket-ramjet propulsion system providing thrust.[1]

MA-31 history

Following the cancellation of the AQM-127 SLAT target drone program, a requirement for a new high-speed target to replace the MQM-8 Vandal still existed.[3] In an unusual turn of events, the U.S. Navy chose to acquire examples of the Kh-31 missile - the actual threat the drone was intended to simulate[3] - as an interim solution pending the development of an all-new design.[4] In 1995, a contract was awarded to McDonnell Douglas for evaluation of the Kh-31 in the Supersonic Sea-Skimming Target role.[1]

An initial small batch of missiles were acquired,[5] being delivered from the manufacturer as "green" shells, without electronics,[6] to Boeing, which had acquired McDonnell Douglas, in the US for modification and conversion to U.S. Navy standards, including the installation of tracking, telemetry and range-safety systems.[7] The MA-31 was equipped for launch from the QF-4 Phantom II aircraft, and it was proposed to develop a compatible launcher for the F-16N Fighting Falcon.[2]

Designated MA-31 in US service, the first launch of the missile took place in August 1996.[7] Evaluated against an improved MQM-8, the MA-31 proved superior and a contract for 34 production missiles was placed in 1999.[8]

At this point, politics intervened in the process, with the Russian Duma refusing export clearance for the missiles.[5] Boeing proposed a further-modified version of the missile, with improved guidance and longer range,[7] however the MA-31 program went no further, and the last missiles in the U.S. Navy's inventory were expended in 2007.[9]

The Navy would finally receive a definitive Supersonic Sea-Skimming Target, replacing the MA-31 and the MQM-8, in the form of the GQM-163 Coyote, which entered service during 2007.[10]

References

Notes
  1. ^ a b c d Friedman 2006, pp.534
  2. ^ a b Braucksick 2004
  3. ^ a b Parsch and Caston 2006
  4. ^ Goebel 2010
  5. ^ a b Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Aerial Targets, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, p. p10 and p56 
  6. ^ Smith 2004, p.61.
  7. ^ a b c Parsch 2008
  8. ^ Contracts for Thursday, December 16, 1999, US Department of Defense, 1999-12-16 
  9. ^ Buckley 2007
  10. ^ Parsch 2007
Bibliography
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