Israel Embarks on a $76 Million Air Transport Defense Plan

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Elbit Systems’ C-MUSIC missile-defense DIRCM will be operated by all Israeli operated commercial airlines


Israel’s Ministry of Transportation awarded Elbit Systems a $76 million contract for the supply of directional infra-red countermeasure systems (DIRCM) developed and produced by Elbit Systems’ wholly owned subsidiary, Elbit Systems Electro-optics El-Op Ltd. The systems will be installed aboard a variety of commercial passenger airplanes operated by Israeli airlines El-Al, Arkia and Israir as part of the comprehensive ‘Sky Shield’ air transport defense plan. Seven years ago the Israeli government decided to equip all Israeli airliners wit protective measures, following an attempt by El-Qaeda to shoot down an Israeli passenger plane in Kenya in 2002. However, the program encountered significant difficulties as the flare-based system originally selected for the program was not certified by U.S. and European Civil Aviation Authorities. This delay has led to the accelerated development of a DIRCM based system, which uses eye-safe laser to deflect missiles fired at the aircraft. According to Adi Dar, General Manager of Elbit Systems Electro-Optics Elop Ltd. should not encounter similar obstacles in certification.

The system selected for the program is the C-MUSIC (commercial multi-spectral infrared countermeasure), employs a fiber-laser based directional infra-red countermeasure technology developed for military aircraft and helicopters. The laser beam generated by the system disrupts missiles fired at aircraft and causes them to veer off course. The recent order was awarder after the system’s performance was demonstrated successfully in recent flight tests on board a civilian helicopter.

Joseph Ackerman, president and chief executive officer of Elbit Systems, takes great pride in the selection of C-MUSIC by the Israeli Ministry of Transportation. “I believe that many customers worldwide will decide to install these systems aboard their commercial aircraft fleets leading aviation industries and air forces have already expressed increasing interest in the system and its capabilities” said Akerman.

Elbit Systems’ MUSIC product line includes several products – the baseline MUSIC system is designed for helicopters, business and special mission aircraft. A derivative of the system called designed specifically for commercial aircraft (C-MUSIC) utilizes a more powerful laser and is designed for large platforms, including passenger aircraft, aerial tankers and large VIP aircraft. According to Adi Dar, the systems are being certified for different types of aircraft and, together, will cover the entire market – from small platforms to the largest wide-body aircraft.

The MUSIC system comprises four main subsystems – threat detection, target tracker, laser exciter and beam director. The entire system is self-contained in an aerodynamic gondola-shaped pod, attached to the aircraft belly, protruding only 30 cm above the fuselage line. From this position the system provides full hemispheric coverage protecting the aircraft from multiple attacks from different directions. The whole system weighs about 50 kg and is designed to fit a wide range of platforms. In the picture above, the pod is visible with PAWS sensors installed fore and aft and the MUSIC turret attached below. The MUSIC subsystem is shown in the picture below.

The system Initial detection of incoming threats is provided by an integral, or customer furnished missile warning systems (MWS). Elbit Systems has integrated the PAWS, produced by its subsidiary Elisra as part of the C-MUSIC). Once a missile launch or approach is detected, the system’s tracker is activated. This module uses a sensitive thermal imager to spot and track the target indicated by the MWS. The thermal imager and laser beam director are positioned in a turret placed on top of the pod. The turret employs highly accurate, gyro-stabilized gimbal and high speed motion system ensuring maximum laser energy is directed exactly at the missile’s seeker. Unlike other laser-based DIRCMs, the MUSIC employs fiber-laser, placing the laser exciter in the pod, rather than in the turret, thus saving weight and reducing its size.

The MUSIC system is provides the baseline for the ELT/572 DIRCM system developed jointly by the Italian company Elettronica and Elbit-Systems. This product is designed as part of a comprehensive defensive aids system (DAS) installed on military helicopters and transport aircraft. According to Daniela Pistoia, Business Development V.P R&D at Elettronica’s, the fiber-laser solution provided by El-Op enables the system to generate effective countermeasures, as powerful as systems weighing five times more than their device.