The Miniature Air-Launched Decoy (MALD): An Antidote to S-400 Triumf (SA-21 Growler)

Miniature Air-Launched Decoy (MALD)

The MALD decoy is a flexible and modular system that has the potential to keep aviators and aircraft out of harm’s way. It’s an expendable air-launched flight vehicle that looks like the U.S. or allied aircraft to enemy integrated air defence systems, or IADS.

The Miniature Air-Launched Decoy (MALD)  is designed and build to confuse and deceive enemy IADS by sending a formation of MALD decoys into hostile airspace. Weighing less than 300 pounds, the weapon has a range of approximately 500 nautical miles (926KM). After it is launched from its host aircraft, the MALD decoy flies a preprogrammed mission.

In addition to protecting valuable aircraft, the weapon offers counter-air operations to neutralize air defence systems that pose a threat to U.S. and allied pilots.

Operational Capabilities:

Electronic warfare uses focused energy, usually radio waves or laser light, to confuse or disable an enemy’s electronics. It can also involve listening —collecting an enemy’s radio signals or sensing the radar of an incoming missile.

Weighing less than 300lb (136Kg), MALD has a range of roughly 500nm and a flight time of about an hour. The MALD-J version includes a jammer that brings the forward deployable, close proximity to threat, airborne electronic warfare to the table. It can be incredibly effective as it zips near known anti-aircraft and radar-surveillance sites as well as communications nodes. It can be programmed to loiter over a particular area, jamming a certain target for an extended period of time.

MALD is capable of deceiving enemy’s illumination radar, fire control radar (FCR) and transporter erector launcher (TEL) mounted missile seekers. The low-cost MALD-J can be used successfully to decoy and deplete TEL mounted missile round, then use AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM) and JSOW to destroy enemy’s radar stations, fire control and command station and TELs.

MALD can be successfully used against Russian Almaz-Antay S-400 Triumf (SA-21), S-300, Buk-M3,– the Chinese HQ-16, HQ-22 and HQ-9 variants of Air Defence System.

During Operation Desert Storm in 1991, the Tactical Air-Launched Decoy (TALD) proved highly effective against then Soviet-era Integrated Air Defense System.

The MALD is the only low-cost, long-range device at under 300 pounds. With MALD-J offers the unique combination of modularity, reliability, and cost efficiency, helping to ensure U.S. air dominance for years to come. The MALD can also mimic fighter aircrafts such as F-16 and B-52’s radar signature.


ADM-160A Original decoy version developed by Teledyne Ryan (acquired by Northrop Grumman) and funded by DARPA. It uses a GPS-aided navigation system and can fly missions with up to 256 predefined waypoints. The mission profile is preprogrammed but can be redefined by the pilot of the launching aircraft until immediately before launch.

ADM-160B Decoy version developed by Raytheon with longer endurance. In use by the USAF.

MALD-J DECOY The MALD-J decoy is the jammer variant of the basic decoy, and the first ever stand-in jammer to enter production. The unmanned MALD-J decoy navigates and operates much closer to the victim radar than conventional electronic warfare when jamming the electronics, allowing aviators and aircraft to stay out of harm’s way. And, it is able to loiter in the target area for an extended time period – plenty of time to complete the mission.

The weapon can operate alone or in pairs but is designed to work with and leverage other electronic warfare platforms.

MALI The Miniature Air-Launched Interceptor (MALI) is an armed version of the ADM-160A which could be used against cruise missiles.

MALD-V Modular payload version that provides space for mission specific payloads of surveillance gear, radio/radar/infrared jammers or other equipment.

MASSM Miniature Autonomous Search and Strike Missile, proposed MALD upgrade to hunt transporter erector launchers (TELs). Depending on altitude and endurance, one MASSM could search 3,000 km2 (1,200 sq mi) of the area.

Launch Platforms:

MALD can be launched from Boeing B-52, EA-18 Growler, F/A-18 Super Hornet, F-16, C-17 Globemaster, UAV and Eurofighter Typhoon.

Current Users

Raytheon has supplied MALD-J to the US Air Force and US Navy. British Royal Navy is interested to procure MALD-J as part of the foreign military sale.

Final thoughts

The low-cost expendable munitions, MALD can be armed with small explosive and integrate with data-link to provide advanced control of battlefield,– a coordinated swarm attack against enemies air defence system will result in depleting enemy’s GBAD/A2AD capability, then destroy all radars, FCR and TELs using HARM to take complete control of the battlefield.

Finally, this advanced flying decoy could also be a delivery system for cyber attacks on the enemy’s communication nodes and air defence apparatus.

MALD Videos:

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