Saab studies missile-protection system

 - November 27, 2007, 9:01 AM

For business jets operating in potentially hostile areas, Sweden’s Saab might soon offer some protection. The company’s Avitronics division is hoping to receive EASA certification within the next eight months for its Civil Aircraft Missile Protection System (Camps). The company claims the defense system–based on countermeasures already in use on military aircraft–is the only such European system for civil aircraft.

One of the strengths Saab stresses regarding its Camps is ease of maintenance and safety. The oxygen-reactive pyrophoric countermeasures are ignited only in a fast-moving airstream–more than 80 meters per second–and, according to Saab, require no special equipment or training for reloading.

The company demonstrated the defense system earlier this year in South Africa, proving it could de-lock an SA-7 missile. Camps consists of four ultraviolet-based missile approach warning systems that provide 360-degree coverage around the aircraft and can track up to eight incoming missiles at once–important since, according to Saab, most missile attacks involve more than one missile. An electronic sensor information processor determines the optimal deployment of the countermeasures, and electro-mechanical decoy dispensers (mounted near the engines) eject targets to confound heat-seeking missiles, such as shoulder-launched Strelas and Stingers fired from man-portable air defense systems (Manpads).

According to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), there are an estimated 50,000 such weapons available on the black market today, while more conservative evaluations from U.S. intelligence agencies put the number at one-tenth that amount. Since the 1970s the U.S. State Department has blamed Manpads for more than 40 attacks on civil aircraft, causing about 25 crashes and more than 600 fatalities.

The Camps system has already received worldwide interest, according to Saab Avitronics executive Goran Karlstrom. “It is a rather narrow niche in the market. We do not anticipate that the major airlines will try to secure these types of systems, so the actual market is not that big.”

Instead, Karlstrom believes the system will appeal to operators of aircraft used for head-of-state or VIP transport, providing humanitarian aid to war-torn regions, and private aircraft operating in dangerous regions. For a typical twin-engine aircraft, the cost for the system is expected to be around $1 million. Karlstrom said Saab can outfit the airplane with the system. “We have teamed with our business unit partner Saab Aerotech, we can undertake the complete modification, the kit itself, the installation and provide the STC for that particular aircraft type.”