Using Civilian Flight Data Recorders in Penetrator Missile Testing Applications

Missile, Data Recording

The proof they say is in the pudding and when you want to prove that a missile works as expected you’ve got to fire it and collect data about what happens. The equipment needed to do this is standard enough – flight test is an activity that has been going on since the invention of flight, except we now use sophisticated electronics rather than pen and paper. While flight test is a mature field, missiles do present a more challenging prospect. Aside from them generally being more compact than an aircraft and experiencing harsher conditions, the fact they are destroyed means it’s very difficult to gather data by a means other than telemetry. While this has been effective for decades, there is a special case where telemetry is not a viable option – penetrator missiles.

These missiles, often called ‘bunker busters’, will penetrate into a building, the ground etc. and telemetry will be lost for the last few moments of flight. What is needed then is a recorder designed to survive the harsh conditions. Most aerospace recorders will not be able to survive such an event, but could be modified to do so. This would be a risky and expensive process – a better approach is to use an already proven off-the-shelf product.

Cross Section of Guided Missile



Figure 1Cross Section of Typical Guided Missile