In a collaborative development effort between the US and Australia, BAE Systems developed over 30 years ago the NULKA active missile decoy soft-kill system. MONS visited BAE Systems’ offices in Melbourne, Australia, to discuss with Brad Yelland, Engineering Director, the evolution of NULKA and the technology within.
“NULKA is the largest defence export Australia has ever had,” says Mr Yelland. “We developed it with the US and the success of the NULKA technology has also meant that there are restrictions on the exportability of the technology.; as a result, NULKA can only be found on US, Australian and Canadian Navy ships.”
According to BAE Systems’ website, the system has been integrated with all US Navy (USN) cruisers and destroyers equipped with AEGIS, and future installations are planned for the Royal Australian Navy’s Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD) and ‘Canberra’ Class Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD).
“The programme has been so successful that the US and Australia continue to invest in the development of the system,” continued Mr Yelland. Although it is not possible for BAE Systems to reveal what improvements have been made on NULKA throughout the years, Mr Yelland noted that: “There are two development drivers: firstly, as this is a counter-measure we need to constantly adapt to emerging threats and new missile technologies; secondly, it is important for us to keep track of constantly changing technologies not just in defence but in other fields too, as this allows us to keep improving our own system.”
For instance, Mr Yelland pointed to the fact that to measure the speed of NULKA BAE Systems relies on pressure sensors that were initially developed by the car industry.
When asked about future developments for the technology, Mr Yelland commented: “The core technology of NULKA is the autonomous guidance of the system. We are now using that technology to drive the development of hypersonics, that is high speed flight vehicles.”
This includes the Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation (HIFiRE) BAE Systems is involved with together with the Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group and the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). “We had a successful test last July, where we managed with our partners to fly a vehicle at 7.5 times the speed of sound. We believe we are now approximately at technology readiness level 5 for our part of the programme, the Hypersonic Guidance and Control technology,” concluded Mr Yelland.