ADM‐160 Miniature Air‐Launched Decoy (MALD)
TypeFamily of air-launched active radar decoy/jammer and payload bus aerial vehicles
Place of originUnited States
Service history
Used byUSAF, USN, Ukrainian Air Force
Wars2022 Russian Invasion of Ukraine
Production history
ManufacturerRaytheon Missile Systems
  • MALD: 279 lb (127 kg)
  • MALD‐J: 286 lb (130 kg) (est)
Length9 ft 4+12 in (2.858 m)
Width16.2 in (0.41 m)
Height14.7 in (0.37 m)
Wingspan5 ft 7 in (1.70 m)

EnginePratt & Whitney TJ‐150 turbojet
0.67 kN (150 lbf)
  • MALD: 500 nmi (580 mi; 930 km)
  • MALD‐J: 486 nmi (559 mi; 900 km)
Maximum speed Mach 0.9 (1,000 ft/s; 310 m/s)
F-15, F-16, F-22, F-35, A-10, B-1B, B-52, P-8A Poseidon, MQ-1 Predator, MQ-9 Reaper
External images
Raytheon ADM-160C (MALD-J)
image icon Raytheon Corp.
image icon Raytheon Corp.

The ADM-160 MALD (Miniature Air-Launched Decoy) is an air-launched, expendable decoy missile developed by the United States. Later variants (MALD-J) are additionally equipped with electronic countermeasures to actively jam early warning and target acquisition radars.[3]


DARPA MALD program

The Miniature Air-Launched Decoy (MALD) program was begun in 1995 by DARPA in an effort to develop a small, low-cost decoy missile for use in the Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses. Teledyne Ryan (acquired by Northrop Grumman in 1999) was granted a development contract for the ADM-160A in 1996, and the first test flight took place in 1999. The evaluation program was finished by 2001.

The US Air Force planned to acquire several thousand of ADM-160As, but in 2001 this was reduced to at most 150 for a System Development and Demonstration (SDD) program.[4] In January 2002, the USAF cancelled the program because the drone didn't have enough range and endurance to meet the service's requirements or to perform other missions.[5]

The ADM-160A carries a Signature Augmentation Subsystem (SAS) which is composed of various active radar enhancers which cover a range of frequencies. The SAS can therefore simulate any aircraft, from the B-52 Stratofortress to the F-117 Nighthawk.

The missile has folded wings to allow more compact carriage. On launch the wings unfold and a TJ-50 turbojet propels the missile on a predetermined course which is composed of up to 100 different waypoints. An inertial navigation system with GPS support keeps the MALD on course. Although preprogrammed before the aircraft leaves the ground, the course can be modified by the pilot at any point up to launch.

New USAF competition

In 2002, the USAF renewed its interest in an air-launched decoy and started a new industry-wide competition for a variant with greater endurance.[5] The contract for a new MALD was awarded to Raytheon in Spring 2003.

The Raytheon ADM-160B is similar in configuration to the ADM-160A, but has a trapezoidal fuselage cross section and is larger and heavier. It is powered by a Hamilton Sundstrand TJ-150, a more powerful variant of the TJ-50.

The first ADM-160B was delivered in Spring 2009.[6] In 2010 an "operationally significant quantity" of the drones were delivered to the Air Force.[7] The USAF currently plans to procure about 1,500.

In 2008 a contract for a jamming variant MALD-J was awarded to Raytheon. It made its first freefall test in 2009 and passed its critical design review in early 2010.[8][9] The first MALD-J was delivered to the Air Force on September 6, 2012. On September 24, Raytheon started operational testing, achieving four successful flights out of four launches.[10] In April 2015, the MALD-J completed operational testing, satisfying all requirements in 42 flight tests over the last two years.[11]

In November 2012, Raytheon completed ground verification tests for the MALD and MALD-J for integration onto the MQ-9 Reaper UAV. Integration onto the aircraft was expected sometime in 2013, with the goal for an unmanned suppression of enemy air defenses capability.[12] The company has also explored integration onto the smaller MQ-1 Predator and U.S. Army MQ-1C Gray Eagle.[13]

In June 2013, Raytheon completed a four-year development program of the MALD, under budget. The MALD and MALD-J successfully completed all 30 engineering and operational flight tests, with each version completing 15.[14] The Air Force has cleared the B-model MALD for export.[13]

In May 2014, Raytheon delivered the 1,000th MALD-J to the Air Force as part of the Lot 5 production contract. The MALD program has achieved a perfect 33-for-33 flight test success record over the past two years.[15]

In December 2014, a MALD-J was test-flown with a radio datalink to expand situational awareness and allow for in-flight targeting adjustments. While carrying out a jamming mission, the MALD-J was able to send situation awareness data to the EW Battle Manager, which used the information to adjust its mission while in-flight.[16]

In July 2015, Raytheon revealed it had developed a new composite missile body for the MALD-J in partnership with Fokker Aerostructures and Italian race car manufacturer Dallara that is 25% cheaper to produce. Fokker adapted robotics to wind the carbon fiber fuselage instead of the conventional manual process and Dallara applied its lightweight structural technologies to airframe accessories such as air inlets and covers. The new cheaper airframe design was first incorporated into Lot 7 production models in 2015, from the contract awarded in June 2014.[13][17]

US Navy

The Naval Surface Warfare Center will place an order for the MALD-J.[18]

Systems integration has been announced as of July 6, 2012, by the Raytheon Corp. for the U.S. Navy's F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. The process included a series of risk reduction activities and technology demonstrations.[19]

On 9 September 2015, Raytheon and the Naval Research Lab announced they had demonstrated a new rapid-replacement, modular architecture for the MALD-J for electronic warfare payloads. Four payloads, each customized for a specific mission and threat, were demonstrated in twelve captive carry flights; the payloads could be swapped out of a captive carry vehicle in less than one minute.[20]

In July 2016, Raytheon received a contract to develop an evolution of the MALD-J called the MALD-X, incorporating an improved electronic warfare payload, the ability to fly at low-altitude, and an enhanced net-enabled data-link. The company hopes to transition the MALD-X into the MALD-N for the U.S. Navy.[21]

British interest

Further information: SPEAR 3

The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) expressed interest on the MALD-V platform at the Paris Airshow in 2009.[22] However, since the early 2010s MBDA UK has been developing the SPEAR 3 miniature cruise missile for the Royal Air Force as well as SPEAR-EW, an electronic warfare variant which can conduct the same stand-in jamming and decoy role as the MALD whilst retaining commonality with the kinetic variant.[23][24] With the UK MoD now fast-tracking the developed of this variant, it is unlikely that the UK will buy into MALD.[23]

Operational history


In May 2023, remains of an ADM-160 MALD were found in Luhansk following a Ukrainian strike against a Russian target in the occupied city. A label on the side of the wreckage appears to indicate that it was a ADM-160B model.[25][26]

In December 2023, the wreckage of an ADM-160 MALD was photographed in a field, reportedly in the Kherson region, after being launched in support of Storm Shadow cruise missiles.[27][28]


Original decoy version developed by Teledyne Ryan (acquired by Northrop Grumman) and funded by DARPA. It uses 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.[29]
Decoy version developed by Raytheon with longer endurance. In use by the USAF.
ADM-160C "MALD-Jammer"
Radar jammer variant of ADM-160B by Raytheon, otherwise known as MALD-J. This variant of the MALD decoy can operate in both decoy and jammer modes. It has a datalink for situational awareness and in-flight targeting adjustments. The decoy and jammer configurations are key enablers supporting the Air Force Global Strike, Global Response, Space and C4ISR, and the Air and Space Expeditionary Force Concepts of Operations. MALD-J will provide stand-in jamming capability for the Airborne Electronic Attack Systems of Systems. It will be launched against a preplanned target and jam specific radars in a stand-in role to degrade or deny the integrated air defence system (IADS) detection of friendly aircraft or munitions.[30] Delivery to the US Armed Forces is to begin in 2012.[19] That year, the Air Force ended procurement of the ADM-160B and will only procure MALD-J versions.[3]

Experimental variants

The Miniature Air-Launched Interceptor (MALI) is an armed version of the ADM-160A which could be used against cruise missiles. It has a more powerful engine and a more aerodynamic shape for supersonic flight, and can be updated in mid flight via a command link to aircraft such as the E-3 Sentry AWACS. It completed its development program in 2002.[4]
Modular payload version that provides space for mission specific payloads of surveillance gear, radio/radar/infrared jammers or other equipment. This may provide the go-forward architecture, and give the option of turning MALD into a UAV, or even a combination killer-UAV/decoy.[31] If equipped with sensor payloads, the MALD may be modified to be recovered so as not to lose valuable payloads after each flight.[18] One payload option could be a thermobaric warhead, essentially turning the MALD into a cruise missile.[32]
Raytheon has proposed using MALD-V as a target drone too.[33]
Ground-based tube-launch variant, none known to be in use. Mentioned in 2008[34] and 2010.[33] Other "one-off" variants in the 2010 slides include a "MALD-W" and a "MALD-A".[33]
The MALD-X has enhanced electronic warfare capabilities compared to MALD-J. It is able to attack autonomously or semi-autonomously. Datalink upgraded. Successful test in 2018.[35]
Navy variant based on the MALD-J.[36]

Launch platforms

Specifications (Northrop Grumman ADM-160A)

Specifications (Raytheon ADM-160B)

See also


  1. ^ Janes (2 May 2019), "Air Launched - ADM‐160 Miniature Air‐Launched Decoy (MALD)", Janes Weapons: Air Launched, Coulsdon, Surrey: Jane's Group UK Limited., retrieved 16 May 2023
  2. ^ Janes (30 June 2022), "Miniature air-launched decoy", Janes C4ISR & Mission Systems: Air, Coulsdon, Surrey: Jane's Group UK Limited., retrieved 16 May 2023
  3. ^ a b Miniature Air-Launched Decoy (MALD) and MALD-Jammer (MALD-J) Archived 2018-09-18 at the Wayback Machine - Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation. 2014
  4. ^ a b "Northrop Grumman ADM-160A / Raytheon ADM-160B/C MALD". Retrieved 15 June 2019.
  5. ^ a b Unmanned Aerial Vehicles 6.0 Decoys Archived December 27, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ U.S. Air Force accepts first delivery of Raytheon Miniature Air Launched Decoy[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ "Raytheon: Investors: News Release". Archived from the original on 11 May 2017. Retrieved 15 June 2019.
  8. ^ a b c "Expendable Wave: Raytheons MALD MALD-J Decoys". Defense Industry Daily. Retrieved 15 June 2019.
  9. ^ Raytheon Miniature Air Launched Decoy Jammer Completes Critical Design Review
  10. ^ Raytheon MALD-J Decoy Goes 4 for 4 in Operational Flight Tests - Raytheon press release, September 24, 2012
  11. ^ US Air Force completes operational testing on Raytheon's MALD-J -, 14 April 2015
  12. ^ Raytheon and General Atomics team-up to integrate MALD onto Reaper -, February 13, 2013
  13. ^ a b c d e Raytheon reveals new composite missile body for MALD decoy-jammer -, 22 July 2015
  14. ^ Miniature Air Launched Decoy-Jammer Completes Flight Testing -, 16 June 2013
  15. ^ Raytheon delivers 1000th Miniature Air Launched Decoy- Jammer to US Air Force[permanent dead link] -, 13 May 2014
  16. ^ Data link-equipped MALD-J flies for the first time -, 11 December 2014
  17. ^ Raytheon develops cheaper MALD -, 23 July 2015
  18. ^ a b c Trimble, Stephen. "Raytheon jammer attracts US Navy interest as roles expand." Flight International, 27 May 2011.
  19. ^ a b Raytheon Corp. "Raytheon and US Navy begin MALD-J Super Hornet integration", 'Press Release', 6, July 2012.
  20. ^ Raytheon demos new MALD-J architecture -, 10 September 2015
  21. ^ USAF contracts Raytheon to develop navy-specific decoy -, 10 July 2016
  22. ^ Craig Holye. "PARIS AIR SHOW: Raytheon advances MALD-J, as UK eyes derivative." Flight International, 16 May 209.
  23. ^ a b Dunlop, Tom (2023-09-26). "MoD accelerates development of SPEAR-EW Jammer". Retrieved 2023-10-05.
  24. ^ "SPEAR-EW | Air Dominance, TACTICAL STRIKE". MBDA. Retrieved 2023-10-05.
  25. ^ a b @StateOfUkraine (May 12, 2023). "Ukraine Reporter on Twitter: 'Remains of AGM-160B MALD decoy missile were found after a strike in Luhansk. These decoys deceive enemy air defense systems to allow actual munitions to bypass them. Equipped with electronic warfare systems, they simulate radar signatures of missiles and aircraft.'" (Tweet). Retrieved 12 May 2023 – via Twitter.
  26. ^ HOWARD ALTMAN; JOSEPH TREVITHICK; TYLER ROGOWAY (12 May 2023). "Ukraine Reporter on Evidence Of ADM-160 Miniature Air-Launched Decoy Use By Ukraine Emerges". Retrieved 12 May 2023.
  27. ^ @front_ukrainian (December 1, 2023). "The fallen American decoy missile AGM-160 MALD, probably in the Kherson region. They are used at the same time as SS/SCALP-EG, but the carrier aircraft is still unknown, as well as the number received by 🇺🇦Ukraine" (Tweet). Retrieved 3 December 2023 – via Twitter.
  28. ^ Rogoway, Tyler (2023-12-01). "ADM-160 Miniature Air Launched Decoy Wreck Appears In Ukraine". The Drive. Retrieved 2023-12-03.
  29. ^ Andreas Parsch "ADM-160", 'Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles', 25, July 2007.
  30. ^ US Air Force Appropriation/Budget activity worksheet. Unclassified page 10.[1], February 2010.
  31. ^ Defense Industry Daily "Raytheon's MALD Decoys Gaining Versatility", 1, December 2011.
  32. ^ Raytheon explores further developments after MALD-J completes operational tests -, 4 June 2013
  33. ^ a b c "Miniature Air Launched Decoy (MALD®) & Future Concepts" (PDF). October 20, 2010.
  34. ^ "Raytheon awaits MALD contract" (2008.07.23) in Jane's Defence Weekly, via
  35. ^ Rogoway, Tyler (24 August 2018). "Recent MALD-X Advanced Air Launched Decoy Test Is A Much Bigger Deal Than It Sounds Like". The Drive.
  36. ^ "NAVAIR modifies MALD-N EMD SOW".
  37. ^ Trevithick, Joseph (2022-11-09). "A-10s Train With Air-Launched Decoys Alongside B-1B Bombers". The Drive. Retrieved 2022-11-21.
  38. ^ Dangwal, Ashish (November 9, 2022). "Peculiar Combo Of A-10C Warthogs & B-1B Strategic Bombers Of US Air Force Flex Muscles In China's Backyard". Retrieved November 9, 2022.
  39. ^ "Illustration". Archived from the original (PDF) on 2019-04-13. Retrieved 2019-10-09.
  40. ^ Stopping Mobile Missiles: Top Picks For Offset Strategy: -, 23 January 2015

This article contains material that originally came from the web article Unmanned Aerial Vehicles by Greg Goebel, which exists in the Public Domain.