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Proportional Navigation

Proportional Navigation

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Published by D.Viswanath

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Published by: D.Viswanath on Jan 30, 2010
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Proportional navigation guidance is used in a majority of tactical radar, infrared (IR) and TV guided missiles. It gained popularity because of its simplicity, effectiveness and ease of implementation.

Historical Background

The Lark missile which was first tested in December, 1950 successfully was the first missile to use proportional navigation. However proportional navigation dates back to World War II and was apparently known to the Germans though they did not apply it practically in their missiles. Apparently proportional navigation was studied by C.Yuan and others at the RCA Laboratories during World War II sponsored by the U.S.Navy. It was implemented first by Hughes Aircraft Company in a tactical missile using a pulsed radar system. Raytheon further developed proportional navigation and implemented it in a tactical continuous wave radar homing missile.


The proportional navigation guidance law basically generates acceleration commands which are perpendicular to the instantaneous missile-target line-of- sight (LOS). These acceleration commands are proportional to the LOS rate and closing velocity and expressed mathematically as

is the acceleration command (m/sec2),
k is the effective navigation ratio (usually in the range 3 to 5),
is the missile-target closing velocity (m/sec), and
is the time derivative of the line-of-sight angle, , or simply the line-of-
sight rate (rad/sec).

The acceleration commands thus generated are given to the missile autopilot (pitch or yaw) and by the movement of the control surfaces (or other means of control such as thrust vector control or lateral divert engines or squibs in case of exo-atmospheric strategic interceptors) the missile is made to move in the desired direction towards the target.


The line-of-sight rate is usually measured by the seeker. The closing velocity is measured by a Doppler radar in case of tactical radar homing missiles whereas in tactical IR missiles or TV guided missiles, the closing velocity is \u201cguestimated\u201d.

Two-Dimensional Engagement Geometry for Proportional Navigation
Consider a two-dimensional point mass missile-target engagement
geometry as shown in figure below:-

The co-ordinate system used is that of inertial co-ordinates fixed to the surface of a flat-Earth model. Thus the components of acceleration and velocities along the two axes or directions can be integrated without having to worry about the additional terms due to the Coriolis effect. Axis 1 represents the down range whereas axis 2 may represent the altitude or cross-range.

Both the missile and target are assumed as point masses travelling
at constant velocity.
The gravitational and drag effects are neglected for simplicity.

Consider that the missile is heading towards the target with a velocity, Vm, and lead angle, L, with respect to the line-of-sight. The lead angle is theoretically the angle at which the missile must be oriented to be on a collision triangle with the target. If the missile is on the correct lead angle, no further acceleration commands are required for the missile to hit the target.


In practice, the missile is launched towards an approximate intercept point since we do not know in advance what the target will do in future. Thus the missile will not be exactly on a collision triangle initially. The initial angular deviation of the missile from the collision triangle is known as heading error (HE).


The imaginary line connecting the missile and target is known as line-of-sight (LOS). The angle the LOS makes with respect to the fixed reference axis 1 is denoted as \u03bb.

The instantaneous separation in range between the missile and
target is denoted as RTM.

The guidance will be considered proper if and only if the range between the missile and the target at the expected time of intercept is as small as possible or zero. The point of closest approach of missile and target is known as miss distance.

The closing velocity, vc, is defined as the negative rate of change of
the distance from the missile to the target, i.e.,

At the end of the engagement, i.e., when the missile and target are in closest proximity, the sign of vc will change. From calculus, a function is either minimum or maximum when its derivative is zero. Thus when RTM is minimum, closing velocity velocity will be zero.


The velocity of the target is denoted as VT and the target acceleration perpendicular to the target velocity vector is denoted as nT. Thus the angular velocity of the target can be expressed as


where \u03b2 is the flight path angle of the target which can be obtained by integrating eqn.(3). Thus the target velocity components with respect to the two axes 1 and 2 is given as

Since velocity is rate of change of position, it follows that
where RT1 and RT2 are the components of target position along axis 1 and 2

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