Paris Air Show

L-3 and Israelis Fund Their Own Countermeasures

 - December 13, 2006, 7:23 AM

Although not backed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security research-and-development fund, at least four other antimissile systems are vying to protect civil aircraft from the Manpad threat: L-3 Avisys of the U.S., and Israeli groups Elisra, ELTA/IMI and Elop.

L-3 Avisys is offering its Commericial Airliner Protection System (CAPS), based on the system it installed on an Airbus A340 last year for a Middle Eastern head-of-state customer. According to Avisys president Ron Gates, the package has already demonstrated extremely low false-alarm rates and promises life-cycle costs that could run no more than one-seventh those of rival laser-based directed infrared countermeasure systems.

CAPS combines a pulse Doppler radar missile warning system provided by Thales with ultraviolet detection technology from EADS. Advanced algorithms compare the two detection inputs and calculate extremely accurate range and time-to-impact data for any incoming missiles. The system automatically arms itself between 100 feet and 20,000 feet to be effective against all potential, ground-launched missile threats.

CAPS also employs dual infrared countermeasures, consisting of low-temperature pyrotechnic flares and pyrophoric decoys. The rapidly oxidi–zing pyrophoric devices create “clouds” to distract incoming missiles, while being invisible to the naked eye in daylight and emitting no more than a slight red glow at night. Ultimately, Avisys would like to switch CAPS to an all-pyrophoric countermeasures package because such a system would likely allay any remaining safety and environmental concerns on the part of civil aviation authorities.

For those wanting to evaluate a full array of antimissile protection systems, the Paris Air Show’s Israeli pavilion is a good place to start. There visitors can learn more about Elisra’s Lorica system. Based on its PAWS family of infrared missile warning systems, the Lorica package detects and tracks missiles using sophisticated algorithms, as well as image and signal processing. It tracks each missile’s trajectory to determine whether or not it directly threatens the aircraft. If it determines the missile is a threat, it alerts the pilot and automatically deploys countermeasures to direct the missile away from the aircraft.

For the civil market, Elisra recommends the directional infrared system developed by fellow Israeli groups Rafael and Elbit.  That system uses a laser beam to jam the missile’s guidance system.

The ELTA/IMI Flight Guard system uses active pulse Doppler radar with antennas installed throughout the airframe to detect missiles. The manufacturer says it is the only system that provides 100 percent coverage of the aircraft with no unprotected “dead zones.” The product continues to track any missile fired in the vicinity of the aircraft, making time-to-impact measurements in order to activate countermeasures effectively and to assign priority levels for countering a multimissile attack.

Flight Guard’s countermeasure system uses new “dark” flares, which divert threatening missiles away from the aircraft. As their name suggests, dark flares do not shine as brighly as traditional flares and will not distract pilots because the human eye can barely notice them.     

Essentially, Elbit and its Elop subsidiary provide the Multi Spectral Infrared Countermeasure (Music) package as the active system element to complement Lorica’s passive role. The directed infrared countermeasure system can consist of the following elements: missile warning system (IR, UV or radar), a laser-jamming beam to deflect missiles, a high-speed turret for tracking missile seekers and a processor to control all functions. Music’s laser and FLIR systems account for Elop’s main contributions.

ELTA/IMI claims its system generates one false alarm per 1,000 flights. Elisra said it has cut the false alarm rate for Lorica to just one second per flight hour. In fact, false alarms are considered to be of less concern with the Lorica system because its infrared countermeasures are less disruptive than chaff and flares.