As part of its annual Concept Visions program – which challenges company engineers to look toward potential future missile technologies – a multinational team led by engineer Ed Dodwell was charged with solving how a military could deal with a broad range of new and complex threats both cost-effectively and a long distance from home bases.

Dodwell’s team looked at the scenario of an aircraft carrier operating a long way from home against a highly capable enemy and came up with CVW102 Flexis. This is a family of weapons which could be produced onboard ship using a series of modular components and a number of technologies that the company is examining for use in future generations of weapons.

“Until now, we have adopted a modular approach for reasons of cost-effective production, like on CAMM [Common Anti-air Modular Missile] or Mica,” said Dodwell.

The Flexis would come in three sizes: a 180mm dia., 1.8-meter-long weapon for air-to-air or lightweight air-to-ground warfare; a 350mm dia., 3.5-meter-long weapon that would deliver a larger payload for bigger targets or carry a penetrator warhead; and a 450mm dia., 5.5-meter-long weapon that would form the basis of an anti-ship missile or a long-range cruise missile.

Each size weapon would be broken down into components. A composite airframe chassis would be fitted with modular components such as the propulsion, warhead, intelligence modules and seekers. The different modules could be assembled together on ship depending on the mission requirements and targets.

“We could re-role the weapon right up to the point of loading them onto the aircraft,” says Dodwell.

By creating a family of weapons with the same aerodynamic shape, configuration and launch envelope, MBDA believes the cost and time of integration onto the platform could be significantly reduced.

Modularity in the production of guided bombs is fairly common. It is standard practice for weapons technicians to produce Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Paveway laser-guided bombs, for example, by taking dumb bombs and fitting guidance packages and wing-kits to them.

Other technologies under study include a printed array seeker on the nose of the weapon. This technology, currently at a early technology readiness level, envisions a seeker that can be wrapped around the nose of the weapon. This would allow more electronics to be packed into the nose of the missile, space previous taken by open space between the seeker and protective radome.

A so-called intelligence package would contain data links allowing the missiles to work collaboratively, particularly if fired in a salvo. A composite airframe chassis would use wire in composite, reducing weight and the need for complex internal wiring.

Health and usage monitoring systems in each missile provide data on the weapon’s health.

“Life of missile is currently defined by its shortest life component,” says Dodwell. “Using modules means that we can replace parts much more easily, reducing wastage.”

Weapons could also be carried on wing based on their condition rather than just the number of flying hours they have flown.

Other technologies envisioned for the weapons are reactive materials. The principle is that by using reactive additives, particularly when combined with variable types of propulsion, a tunable or scalable weapon effect can be delivered.