As anti-aircraft shoulder missiles fall into the hands of terrorist organizations and guerilla groups around the world and threaten a variety of planes, aircraft defense systems are constantly being developed. Until now, what has the solution to this threat been? How can laser beams help? And what solutions are on the horizon?
As anti-aircraft shoulder missiles only become more sophisticated, threatened aircrafts have to be equipped with latest and most sophisticated defense systems. Anti-aircraft missiles that different terrorist organizations around the world hold in their possession threaten both military planes and civilian passenger aircrafts. As a result, defense contractors around the world are constantly developing new capabilities to contend with the ever-transforming threat.
One of the most common ways to protect against missiles launched towards planes is through a kind of heat chaff emitted from the plane, generally referred to as a “flare”. Because the anti-aircraft missile follows a heat source, the flare confuses it, causing it to advance in its direction, instead of continuing towards the plane. “These systems are always being upgraded”, explains Shabati Rabinowitz, head of the Self-Defense Division at Elta, which develops missile detection radar systems. “At the moment, we are developing capabilities on planes to improve the detection of certain missiles.
Despite the relative reliability of different flare systems, not all companies are in a rush to install then in their planes: when it comes to passenger aircrafts, emitting flares may prove to be too frightening for passengers and may also lead to much confusion. This is one of the reasons that lead the company Elop, from Elbit Systems, to develop the innovative “MUSIC” system, which deflects anti-aircraft missiles from their path using laser beams. Much like flares, laser beams blind the missile and pull it towards them and away from the plane. Additionally, the system has an additional, hidden advantage: laser systems do not disintegrate and there is no concern that they will run out during a heavy barrage of missiles. Nonetheless, flare systems have an advantage over laser beams: a single flare is capable of neutralizing a number of missiles, unlike a laser beam, which is only capable of neutralizing one missile.
Coming Soon: “Windbreaker” for Planes
In spite of the advanced solutions proposed nowadays, the race for more technological, more reliable, and safer equipment never ends. “There is no certainty that the systems that exist today will be able to deal with future missiles, which will be a lot more sophisticated”, Shabati Rabinowitz claims. According him, when terrorist organizations manage to get their hands on missiles that are capable of overwhelming defense systems that redirect missiles, systems, known as “hard protection”, and equipped with counter-ammunition designed to destroy missiles will have to be developed. Much like the “Windbreaker” system installed on the back of tanks, systems that are capable of damaging missiles in midair will be installed on planes. “When it comes to a future vision”, Rabinowitz points out that, at the moment, there aren’t any pending acquisitions for a system like this. “We see that this is the direction the industry is going, and there are already companies that work on developing some kind of small missile or rocket that will be added to the planes”, explains Rabinowitz. “Therefore, we have stated investing in the research on this topic so that we will be able to develop it if the need arises for radar…of this kind. If need be, we will be able to produce radar equipped with the capabilities within three or four years.”