What is an aircraft’s signature? Why is it crucial for preserving the pilot’s live? How can it be improved? And how is it connected to secret operations? The answers are all here
An aircraft’s signature basically the way it is being manifested by different means of detecting – radars, intelligence gathering systems, cameras, binoculars, microphones and even eyes and ears. There are several types of signatures: optic signature – the ability to detect the aircraft with mean like cameras, binoculars and the eyes; Acoustic signature – the noise produced by the aircraft; Thermal signature – the heat emitted by the aircraft; Radar signature and Electromagnetic signature (the electromagnetic waves emitted by the aircraft).
The lower the signatures, the less detectable the aircraft is. As a force that is many times required to operate discreetly and avoid threats such as Surface-to-Air Missiles, the IAF makes sure that its aircraft – fighter jets, transport airplanes, helicopters and UAVs – would have the lowest possible signature.
Measuring, Painting and Changing
The IAF has a special team that works specifically to ensure that all of its aircraft would have the lowest signature possible. “The first stage is examining the reality now – how our aircraft are being presented in the enemy’s radars, how much heat they emit, what is the height in which they are always detectable and many other parameters” , says Major Matan, Head of the signature team in the Materiel Directorate.
“In order to do that, we conduct signature experiments twice a week, during which we send a plane for a sortie, scatter in the field and check to see when it is detectable by our different means and when it is not”.
While the experiment mostly takes a few days, the process of analyzing the results and drawing the right conclusions may take weeks. In addition to experiments, the team also uses the data provided by the manufacturer, various analysis and special computer program which have been developed for exactly that aim. These processes are take place in cooperation with the Israeli military industries, as the team also builds unique analytic means for the IAF.
As the team gathers more data about signature, it can provide better recommendation on how to reduce aircraft detectability – like changing the color of a plane to make it harder to detect and reduce its heat or to reengineer a plane to become quieter. A plane’s detectability is constantly changing sue to Peeling paint, components aging and more and therefore it is important to monitor the aircraft signature at all times.
Making Sure Everyone Stays Safe
The team also take part in planning of sorties that must remain confidential or that are being conducted over areas threatened by missile batteries. “For example, if we know that there are missile batteries in the area, we would of course want it to detect out aircraft as late as possible”, adds Major Matan. “For that aim, we would recommend the planning teams to fly in certain altitude and speed. Our goal is to make sure no one knows where our aircraft are and what they do, so that our people could get back home safe and sound”.