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Proportional Navigation in Missile Guidance


1. 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. 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.

Missile Guidance Dynamics

3. The geometry of a missile and target, both confined to move in a plane is

depicted in figure below: -

a V



The target moves in a straight line at constant velocity VT and the missile moves at constant
speed VM but the direction of the velocity vector can be controlled by the use of an
acceleration, a, which is assumed perpendicular to the relative velocity vector V given by the

(a) Using a coordinate system that is “attached to the target”, the

dynamics of relative motion are: -


where r is the range to the target, λ is the inertial line-of-sight angle, σ is

the angle subtended at the missile by the velocity vector and the line of
sight, and a is the applied acceleration.
(b) Assumption 1. Under the assumption that the missile continues
in a straight line without any further acceleration, let y be the “distance of
closest approach” of the missile to the target. (y may also be called the
projected miss distance). Then y is given as
Differentiating eqn.(5) gives


Using eqns.(2) and (4) in eqn.(6) gives



(c) Assumption 2. Assume that σ is a small angle. Then eqn.(2) can

be written as
Thus integration of eqn.(9) with respect to time , t, will give



where T0 = R0/V is the flight time which is assumed to be a known quantity

and is called the time-to-go or tgo.

(d) The equations (3) and (8) can be represented by their approximate
dynamics by using eqns. (5) and (12) as follows:-


4. Missile Dynamics. The missile pitch dynamics is given by the set of

equations: -




where α is angle of attack, q is pitch rate and δ is the control surface deflection
and Z and M quantities are the aerodynamic forces and moments.
5. Missile guidance laws are generally expressed in terms of the component
of acceleration normal to the velocity vector of the missile; in proportional
navigation, for example, it is desired that this acceleration be proportional to the
inertial line-of-sight rate. Thus the output of interest in a typical missile is the
“normal” component of acceleration aN.

α V

δ aN

V = missile velocity

aN = normal acceleration

α = angle of attack

γ = flight path angle

θ = pitch angle.

In the planar case,


where γ is the flight path angle. But


Differentiating eqn.(19) gives


Substituting eqn.(17), eqn.(20) becomes


Substituting eqn.(15), eqn.(21) becomes

Substituting eqn.(22) in eqn.(18) gives


With the state, input and output of the missile defined respectively by

α 
x =   ; u = δ ; y = aN
q 

the eqns.(15), (16) and (23) i.e.,




can be expressed by the standard representation,



where A,B,C,D are the matrices given by

 Zα / V 1   Zδ / V 
A= ; B =  
 Mα Mq  Mδ 
C = [ Zα 0 ] ; D = [ Z δ ]

6. The transfer function from the input u = δ to the output y = aN is given by

H ( s ) = C ( sI − A) −1 B + D
 s − Zα / V −1   Z δ 
⇒ H ( s ) = [ Zα 0 ]   +Z
 −Mα s − M q   M δ  δ
Zδ ( s − M q s − M α ) + Zα Mδ

 Z  Zα
s2 −  M q + α  s + V Mq − Mα
 V 

(a) In a typical missile, Zα, Zδ, Mα, and Mδ are all negative. Thus the
coefficient of s2 in the numerator of H(s) is negative. The constant term
ZαMδ - Mα Zδ on the other hand is typically positive in case of tail controlled
missiles. This implies that the numerator of H(s) has a zero in the right
half plane. A transfer function having a right-half plane zero is said to be
“non-minimum” phase and can be a source of considerable difficulty in
design of a well-behaved closed-loop control system. The problem is that
the dc gain –( ZαMδ - Mα Zδ )/ Mα is positive but the high frequency gain - Zδ
/ Mα is negative typically. So if a control law is designed to provide
negative feedback at dc, unless great care is exercised in the design, it is
liable to produce positive feedback at high frequencies.

(b) Another peculiarity of the transfer function is that its step response
starts out negative and then turns positive. The initial value of the step
response is
1 
lim s  H ( s)  = Z δ ≤ 0
s →∞
s 

but the final value of the step response is

1  Z M − M α Zδ
lim s  H ( s )  = α δ ≥0
s →0
s  − Mα

Missile Autopilot

7. The function of a missile guidance system is to issue a guidance

command in the form of the desired acceleration aNC normal to the missile
velocity vector. Whereas the function of an autopilot in a missile is to make the
normal component of acceleration aN track a commanded acceleration signal aNC
which is produced by the missile guidance system with good fidelity.

8. Open Loop Dynamics. A high performance missile with a good

autopilot, is capable of achieving a relatively high bandwidth. The control surface
is rotated by means of an actuator which has its own bandwidth of operation.
The bandwidth of the autopilot may be comparable to that of the actuator, which
drives the control surface. Thus it may be necessary to include the dynamics of
the actuator in order to have an adequate model of the process. Under this
assumption, the first-order dynamic model for the actuator to be used is given

. 1
δ= ( u − δ ) _______________________(27)

where u is the input to the actuator and τ is its time constant.

(a) Since the aim is to track an acceleration command, the acceleration

error is given by


This error will be treated as a state variable instead of the angle of attack.
Differentiating eqn.(28) gives

(b) The next assumption made in the design problem is that the
derivative of commanded acceleration is zero or in other words, the
commanded acceleration is constant over time. In addition to
approximating the commanded acceleration to be a constant, it is also
assumed that the aerodynamic coefficients Zα and Zδ and the missile
speed V are approximately constant.

(c) Using all these approximations, substitution of eqn.(23) in eqn.(29)



(d) Also, from eqn.(28), the output acceleration is given by


(e) From eqns. .(15), (16) and (23) i.e.,




(f) Substituting eqn.(23) in eqn.(15) gives


Substituting eqn.(31) in eqn.(32) gives


(g) Substituting eqns.(27) and (33) in eqn.(30) gives


(h) From eqn.(23), the angle of attack, α, can be given as


Substituting eqn.(31) in eqn.(35) gives


(i) Thus the differential equation for the pitch rate using eqn (36) in
eqn.(16) is
9. A single third order vector-matrix equation defining the system is obtained
from eqns. (34), (37) and (27) as given by


. 1
δ= ( u − δ ) ____________________________________________(27)

Defining the state vector by

x = [e q δ]’ _________________________________________________(38)

eqns.(34), (37) and (2) can be represented by the state space equation


where the matrices A,B,E are given by

 Zα / V − Zα Z δ /τ 
   − Zδ / τ 
M δ  ; B =  0
A =  − M α / Zα Mq 
 
 0 0 −1/ τ   − 1/ τ 
  ____________(40)
 − Zα / V 
E =  M α / Zα 
0 



M δ = Mδ − Zδ __________________________________________(41)

The autopilot design will be done in two steps. Firstly design a regulator
for a commanded normal acceleration of zero, then secondly compute the
feed forward gain to eliminate the steady state error for a non-zero
commanded acceleration.


1. Paul Zarchan, “Tactical & Strategic Missile Guidance”, Vol 199, Progress in
Astronautics & Aeronautics, A Volume in AIAA Tactical Missile Series.

2. Bernard Friedland, “Control System Design: An Introduction to State-Space

Methods”,(Dover Books on Engineering)