Aircraft laser blinds heat-seeking missiles

Discussion in 'International Politics' started by sandeepdg, Sep 18, 2010.

  1. sandeepdg

    sandeepdg Senior Member Senior Member

    Sep 5, 2009
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    A new aircraft gadget will help protect fighter jets from incoming heat-seeking missiles, by blinding the trailing weapon with a high powered infrared beam.

    The device, about the size of a DVD player, uses lasers to send out flashes of infrared light. It creates a massive heat mask which warms up the heat-sensor on the missile. This confuses the weapon and hides the aircraft’s primary heat sources -- the engine and exhaust.

    "It's like throwing sand into the eyes of the missile," said Mohammed Islam, a scientist at the University of Michigan. The aircraft then has to turn sharply or perform midair manoeuvres to escape the predatory weapon’s grasp.

    Typically, aircraft use more traditional lasers, which only operate on a single wavelength. If the IRCM (infrared radiation countermeasure) isn’t on the same wavelength as the incoming missile, it will have the opposite effect, increasing the aircraft’s heat signature, rather than masking it. The military has to rely on gathered intelligence to choose the most effective countermeasure.

    The new system avoids that problem by emitting a large array of wavelengths across the entire infrared spectrum, to ensure all missiles types are countered.

    Other techniques currently employed include flares, which are discharged to create a false, much larger heat-target. The drawback is that planes can only carry a limited supply of flares.

    Some much larger aircraft, most famously in planes designed by Boeing, use lasers that go one step further than just confusing missiles: they blow them up. However, their size and power usage makes them a turn off for smaller plane manufacturers.

    The new laser is small and durable enough to fit on the outside of most fighter aircraft. It will likely be rolled out in 2011, once the size has been reduced even further and the laser made up to four times more powerful. Helicopters are planned to be the first to get it, with fighter jets coming later.

    The military won’t be the only group to benefit from the new tech though. The ‘spectral fingerprint’ -- i.e. the wavelength -- of explosives and illegal drugs lies within the infrared range, meaning this laser system could aid law enforcement agents by picking out illicit and concealed objects from a distance.

    Aircraft laser blinds heat-seeking missiles

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