L-109 Composite Rocket Motor Case Technology for Tactical Missiles

January 2005
Joint Collaboration by CPIA and MSIACMichael J. Fisher (CPIA, JHU, USA) Thomas L. Moore (CPIA, JHU, USA)Harry J. Hoffman (CPIA, JHU, USA)Ian Powell (Mitigation Methods)

International efforts, particularly amongst the MSIAC member nations, between 1979 and 2004 to develop, demonstrate, and implement composite (reinforced plastic) rocket motor cases in tactical missile programs, with an emphasis on the use of the latest generation high-strength graphite (carbon) fiber, are reviewed and summarized. The favorable response of composite cases to insensitive munitions stimuli, as well as structural efficiency, has generated increased interest for the insertion of this technology into new, tactical-class propulsion systems. Some discussion on the development and operational history of launch vehicle boosters using composite cases is also included for the purpose of establishing the technology base for tactical systems.

Many historically plaguing issues and technical challenges in the use of composite cases for tactical missiles have been successfully addressed in technology programs conducted in the MSIAC member nations and elsewhere over the past 25 years. These issues include asprocessed materials variability, aging, fatigue, aeroheating, corrosion, moisture intrusion, and structural performance. A broad range of design techniques and materials has been developed to provide for technical robustness and alternative approaches. However, some issues remain for the use of composite-cased rocket motors in the externally-carried, airlaunched environment. These issues include volume limitations, case damage tolerance and detection, and cost, maturity and qualification of the materials system for aircraft underwing carriage.