The MoD have signed a contract with Thales for a jointly funded research programme for aircraft protection
The jointly funded contract, worth £24.5 million, builds on years of research work conducted by Thales and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) to develop an infra-red warning system to detect missiles, gun fire and other threats so that appropriate countermeasures can be deployed. The programme is being managed and delivered from the Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) Air Technology Delivery organisation.
The technology demonstrator, scheduled to be completed in 2015, will prove that the system can identify and declare threats in complex environments with a high level of accuracy. It will use up to six single colour infra-red sensors to provide full coverage of the volume around the aircraft and use Thales algorithms on a central processor.
The UK has a very strong track record in aircraft protection systems so this would seem to be an attempt to maintain the position.
The system’s sensors will also be capable of generating infra-red imagery from all around the aircraft to aid aircrew situational awareness and is designed to include data recording to support effective mission planning and post mission replay.
Whilst aircraft protection systems have traditionally tried to counter the threat of ground launched IR missiles this recogniss that perhaps the greatest threat to aircraft such as helicopters is not a MANPAD but an RPG or medium calibre automatic weapon.
The UK is not alone, other nations are also investing in helicopter protection systems, in fact, a casual internet search reveals many such research initiatives going back 5 or 6 years so we have a lot of catching up to do.
Good stuff though.