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InfraRed Countermeasures

07 September 2003

From a highly experienced contract Aerospace Engineer (mechanical, design/analysis, simulation, pointing-tracking systems, IR technology with over 20 years experience in 3D Ground Precision Tracking Radar makes the following UNCLASSIFIED statements with a HIGH degree of confidence (as opposed to 99% certainty):

1) ANY IR/EO missile can be jammed with the APPROPRIATE jammer.

2) If someone is saying that 24% of the SA-18's will get through an "IR jammer", it must be one of the ill-designed jammer units that have been in the marketplace for 20 years. Cannot be specific without getting into classified ground. If I knew what the seeker sensitivity curve were, (THRU THE ACTUAL OPTICAL WINDOW) I might be able to say something UNCLASSIFIED.

3) Protecting Large Aircraft has ALWAYS been a matter of money ONLY. And using the correct technology for the threat(s). ANYTHING could be/have been done in the last 10-15 years. $1 million < somewhere < $5 million / A/C depending on threats and technology. Must be done in some quantity, as the 1-time airframer engineering expenses to cut holes, hang stuff on a particular type could be $2-$20 million for flight certification.

4) The high speed of the SA-18 is an advantage against tactical fighter-bomber A/C ONLY.

5) Untrained fools will miss. cf the multiple no-hit attacks at Baghdad over the last 2 weeks.

6) IF the missile hits, there is the question of the impact fuze reliability. SA-7's have been notorious (<50%?) in their warhead detonation unreliability. There was some interesting network footage of a DC-10 arriving at Kabul ~ 1984 with a neat SA-7 diameter hole in the tailcone of one of the 2 wing engines. No explosion. Hot, large area, exposed, PRIME target zone, EMPTY of critical stuff.

7) IF the missile hits, WHERE? Fighter A/C are chock full of essential hardware, including very hot engines which are generally unconstrained against turbine (hot section) failure. Working missiles tend to fly up tailpipes. AAM have much more sophisticated fuses and heavier warheads. Can hit hot nose/leading edge sections on high-subsonic/supersonic aircraft. On takeoff, before the Large Transport A/C is up to speed, there is nothing in the forward hemisphere to LOCK ON TO and shoot at except sun-glint. EASY to jam a missile that does this. Unless the A/C fortuitously rolls away from a hilltop shooter, the region of interest is 1/4 of a hemisphere (rear-down). There are other considerations that work against the shooter and missile in this sub-case. The Takeoff case is dominant.

8) "As with the earlier SA-14, the SA-18 uses of a similar thermal battery/gas bottle, and the SA-18 has the same 2 kilogram high-explosive warhead fitted with a contact and grazing fuse. "
If the IR cooling system is the same, the seeker is similar, and can be beaten with 10-20yr old technology, properly applied

9) "Both IR SAMS and IR air-to-air missiles have seekers with improved Counter-Countermeasures (CCM) capabilities that seriously degrade the effectiveness of current expendable decoys."
Most expendable decoys have been passe for these reasons for 20 years, and useful only on OLD missiles and/or with high-G capable A/C to get out of the way of the decoyed missile. C-130's with ONLY flare dispensers can be hit. It should not be necessary to discuss the obvious deleterious effects of flares on a civilian countryside, unless one is educating the uneducated: cf TSA and their current "study RFP's/contracts" It's much easier in general to improve tracker circuitry to avoid flares than to improve the flares. Flares are not part of the Large Transport A/C Takeoff/Landing solution except at a remote military airfield, such as Desert One (1979) or Bashur (2003). There are many types of missile designs which could be essentially immune to flares. In sum, flares are only practical in a military environment, where they MAY have NO effect on the SSPHit of a given missile. On a transport, flares won't hurt until you get to medium/low altitude (MANPAD engagement zone) over a populated/built-up area, where they might be expected to function as incendiaries.

10)"MANPADS have proliferated worldwide, accounting for over 400 casualties in 27 incidents involving civil aircraft over the previous 19 years. "
A good argument for deploying IRCM. Most of these incidents occurred, I believe in Africa, where the A/C maintenance is abysmal. In addition, few if any 3-4 engine A/C. Maintaining control IF an engine is taken out on a 2-engine A/C is difficult, and I suspect the skill set is thinly distributed in the 3rd world.

11) "Current open-loop systems confuse missiles with random false targets or IR energy, making the missile wobble in flight, but not necessarily break lock. For slower, high-value aircraft (e.g., C-17, AWACS, JSTARS), blinding may not be sufficient; the threat could still glide in close enough to fuse and cause damage. "
This is a false argument maintained by 2 IRCM manufacturers apparently over the last 25 years! Meaconing works. Whether or not lock is broken is not critical OR RELEVANT. There is a small possibility of a "perfect ballistic shot" where the guidance is unnecessary UNLESS meaconed. Break-lock is a touted feature of equipment otherwise incapable of competing across the threat spectrum. Otherwise competent design groups may mention it to keep themselves in the game.

12) "The infrared imaging missile seeker represents a leap in technology that may require more robust infrared countermeasures to defeat it"
TRUE. Was understood and true 20 years ago. The necessity for perfect expendable decoys is unproved. Those experienced in the art know this. Sounds like a vuegraf for an expendable decoy mfgr.

13) "3) civil aircraft experiencing a 70% probability of kill given a MANPADS hit "
Figures can lie and liars can figure. incredible for 3/4 engine A/C flown by competent pilots conversant with engine-out and engine fire shutdown procedures. A 2kg warhead is not a nuke.

14) "Recent military engagements, such as Desert Fox, demonstrate curtailment of daytime operations as a result of the MANPADS threat. Civil aircraft remain virtual "sitting ducks" to terrorists. "
Fear of the big bad wolf is real, but appears highly overrated, given ACTUAL unsuccessful "MANPAD" attacks on Large Transport A/C in Iraq in the last month.

The steps involved to successfully launch a locked-on IR missile is much more difficult than publicized. Have you ever locked-up a Stinger Simulator (No propellant/explosive warhead) on a real A/C? I have, and I doubt my SSPHit would be better than 50% without further training/experience. You should visit a Stinger (Army/Marine) unit and try it.

Most of the material presented is biased toward development programs (don't have to decide what to buy!), searching for the perfect solution to a hypothetical perfect problem, and large numbers of decision-makers faced with little/no knowledge of the reality of the threat, technology, and state-of-the-art, warped by particular vendors' attempts to steer the problem perception toward their unique product as a solution.

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