A guided missile prototype funded and developed by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) successfully hit two high-speed boats during recent testing in Point Mugu, Calif.

Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division engineers used a shore-based launcher to fire two Low-Cost Imaging Terminal Seeker (LCITS) rockets in the Nov. 3 test, one inert and the other with an explosive warhead, ONR reports.

Using inertial guidance, the missiles flew to a point where the infrared terminal guidance system took over. Onboard imaging infrared seekers identified their intended targets among five maneuvering small boats. The rockets adjusted trajectories to intercept and hit two of the boats.

The test was part of the Medusa Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD), an effort funded by the Department of the Navy, Office of the Secretary of Defense and Republic of Korea.

The Medusa JCTD is designed to combine the missiles with the MH-60 helicopter. “It’s a fire-and-forget weapon,” said Ken Heeke ONR LCITS program manager. “No longer do you have to continue to monitor the target after you’ve fired the weapon. You can move on to the next threat with the assurance that the rocket will hit the target.”

ONR researchers produced LCITS, a suite of low-cost technologies that modify existing helicopter-borne rockets into precision-guided weapons. By adding an infrared imaging guidance section to 2.75-in. Hydra-70 rockets, the researchers are providing naval aviators with a new lethal capability.

Unlike laser-guided weapons that require operators to select and monitor a target from launch to detonation, LCITS gives unguided rockets the ability to compute and home in on targets automatically after launch.

The ONR effort combines two sets of high-profile Pentagon programs – guided missiles and helicopters.

Rotary-wing programs rank third among all Pentagon programs in 2010 expenses with about $7 billion in contracts and contract modifications, according to an exclusive Aviation Week Intelligence Network (AWIN) analysis of contracting data aggregated by the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting.

Collectively, guided missile programs rank 10th among all Pentagon expenses in 2010 with about $3.2 billion in transactions, the AWIN analysis shows.