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Lightweight Fins for Enhanced Maneuverability of a High-Speed Interceptor


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Air Platform, Materials, Electronics, Battlespace, Weapons 

OBJECTIVE: Develop lightweight fins to enhance the maneuverability of a high-speed interceptor. 

DESCRIPTION: This topic seeks a design for lightweight, deployable, fins to enhance the maneuverability of interceptors operating within the atmosphere at high Mach number flight speeds. Such interceptors must be capable of precise, agile aerodynamic maneuvering. One method to achieve this requirement is through the advancement of aerodynamic fin design and actuation. The proposed design should include a compact control actuation system that interprets vehicle guidance commands for accurate positioning and control with an extremely fast response time. The proposed design should demonstrate precision maneuverability for a representative axisymmetric missile body in the high hypersonic velocity regime [. The design should be as light as possible while still allowing maximum control effectiveness over the required velocity range; the fin will be exposed to significant aerodynamic and thermal loads during high dynamic pressure operations. The design may also incorporate a fin deployment mechanism, as control surfaces often need to be folded or retracted in some manner in order to facilitate integration within the launch platform, such as a canister. Cost should also be considered since the application will be in expendable vehicles. 

PHASE I: Develop a proof-of-principle concept. Through modeling and analysis, demonstrate the concept can operate with precision maneuverability in the atmosphere in the high hypersonic velocity regime. Provide expected aerodynamic and thermal load performance analysis and cost estimates. 

PHASE II: Develop a prototype meeting government-provided specifications that can be integrated into a missile-sized vehicle and show maneuverability over in the high hypersonic velocity regime. Verify prototype performance via high-fidelity, numerical modeling. 

PHASE III: Mature the prototype via component testing to a system-level test (ground and/or flight tests). 


1: National Research Council of the National Academies, "Making Sense of Ballistic Missile Defense: An Assessment of Concepts and Systems for U.S. Boost-Phase Missile Defense in Comparison to Other Alternatives," 2012.

2:  Victor Giurgiutiu and Radu Pomirleanu, "Smart Material Actuated Missile Flight Control Surfaces Feasibility Study," U.S. Army Research Office, November 2000, (

3:  Rank Fresconi, Ben Gruenwald, Tansel Yucelen, and Jubaraj Sahu, "Adaptive Missile Flight Control for Complex Aerodynamic Phenomena," U.S. Army Research Laboratory, August 2017, (

KEYWORDS: Aerodynamic Control Surface, Thermal Load, Supersonic Missiles, Missile Steering, Compact Actuation System, Weapons Steering, Divert Control 

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