der-fired missiles to military and commercial aircraft through the development of
onboard IR countermeasure systems. It is
developing laser-based directional IR
countermeasure systems, which are expected to significantly improve an aircraft’s chances against heat-seeking missiles in comparison with the alternative
nondirectional IR countermeasure system
In 2004, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) launched its C-MANPADS initiative, under which defense industry contractors are developing
and testing existing military defense countermeasure systems for use on commercial
airlines. BAE Systems’ JetEye IR missile
defense system, for example, completed
its first flight on a scheduled American
Airlines aircraft in 2008, beginning the
final phase of the DHS program to test the
suitability of the equipment for commercial aircraft.
Northrop Grumman Corp.’s Guardian
system, which is attached to the belly of a
plane, also has undergone initial testing
phases and is being tested in commercial
cargo flights. Both systems use an IR sensor to detect missile launches and a laser
burst to redirect the attacking guidance
At the component level
A typical shoulder-fired missile tracks
the target airplane by locking onto the signature of the heat given off by the airplane. Alternate IR countermeasure technologies provide for the deployment of
chaff and flares by the target to confuse
the guidance system of the missile. Although these systems have been moderately successful, the MANPADS can reacquire the target and hit the airplane.
A major innovation in providing improved protection, directed IR countermeasure technology moves away from the
chaff-and-flares approach. The new technology involves an IR laser mounted on a
target airplane. The laser activates when a
MANPADS firing is detected and con-
fuses the eye and brains of the incoming
missile. Various types of lasers in the 4- to
5-μm range, such as optical parametric oscillators and optically pumped semiconductors, have been used, with varying degrees of success.
Pranalytica Inc. of Santa Monica, Calif.,
recently introduced a turnkey 2-W fully
packaged, CW room-temperature quantum
cascade laser emitting at 4. 6 μm for incorporation into IR countermeasure systems.
Four tier-one aerospace/defense contractors have purchased the company’s 1-W
versions since 2008, according to C.
Kumar N. Patel, president and CEO.
Because multiple lasers can be incorporated into the directional IR countermeasure systems, the 2-W components provide
simpler, smaller and more cost-effective
technology for the task, while providing a
greater range of protected area. The components offer high reliability and are energy-efficient.
Caren B. Les
Night-vision goggles no longer just for military
TEMPE, Ariz. – Pilots flying aircraft at
night and during low-light conditions
know how difficult it can be to perform
flight operations when visibility is limited.
Not seeing clearly can seriously affect
what could already be a dangerous task.
Medical responders and search-and-rescue
units, law enforcement teams, and others
who must fly in the dark near offshore oil
rigs, power lines or high rises, for example, are especially at risk.
Now, in an attempt to alleviate the dangers, the Federal Aviation Administration
has approved certified military-use-only
night-vision aviator goggles (NVAG- 6) for
“Night vision is a phenomenal asset to
be using,” said Lee A. Stephens, senior
technical applications manager at Nivisys
Industries LLC. “They help any night operation in the form of greater visibility and
The goggles are made by Nivisys, a
manufacturer of thermal and night-vision
equipment specializing in Aviator Night
Vision Imaging Systems (ANVIS), which
feature high-resolution, lightweight, easy-to-operate binoculars designed to fit helmets worn by helicopter pilots and fixed-wing aircraft aviators.
According to Stephens, the equipment
must go through environmental performance requirements to gain Technical Standard Order (TSO) certification, a minimum performance standard issued by the
FAA for civil aircraft equipment. “The
NVAG- 6 meets TSO-C164 approval,” he
said. “We’re the only night-vision goggle
manufacturer to receive this certification.”
A C164 order is specific to head-mounted,
binocular, night-vision goggles.
Shown is a pilot looking through the NVAG- 6 goggles. Inside an aircraft, the pilot must shift his eyes below the
goggles to see the instrument panel because the binoculars allow visibility only in the near-infrared spectrum.
Courtesy of Nivisys Industries.
The NVAG- 6 binoculars operate from a
wavelength of approximately 600 to 900
nm. Image intensifier tube performance