The proliferation of advanced Man Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS) in combat zones causing mounting losses among coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and threatening Israel Air Force over Lebanon, during 2006, accelerated the development and deployment of improved countermeasures. Directed Infra-Red Countermeasures (DIRCM) technology has matured in recent years, with systems miniaturization, weight and cost reduction making these lifesaving devices affordable even for medium size helicopters.
The latest trend is the introduction of miniaturized, dual-band turrets, comprising missile detection and tracking sensors and directional infrared countermeasures. Such devices can fit on medium helicopters, transport aircraft as well as fast jets, protecting them against most modern threats. Such systems are under development by Raytheon, BAE Systems, Elta, Elbit Systems and Northrop Grumman.
Laser-based DIRCMS require more accurate information about incoming threats, to ensure the laser beam illuminating precisely and continuously at the specific, highest priority threat. One of the innovations in this field, displayed by Northrop Grumman is the integrated ‘Mini Pointer/Tracker‘ specially designed for laser-based DIRCM. When cued by the missile warning system, the pointing system rapidly acquires the approaching threat, tracks it and jams it with laser energy from the integrally mounted Viper multi-band IRCM laser.
Elbit Systems and the Italian company Elettronica announced cooperation to pursue potential DIRCM programs, utilizing the Music DIRCM system, developed by Elbit Systems under previously announced cooperation with RAFAEL.
Sofar DIRCM systems were installed on large transport aircraft and helicopters. Northrop Grumman is currently under contract to design, test and integrate the DIRCM self-protection system onto the Marines’ CH-46E helicopter fleet. A similar program is already underway with the corps’ CH-53E helicopters. Integration with AH-64D is also underway.