Integrated Approach To Aircraft Survivability Combines Input
From Multiple On-Board Sensors
The U.S. Army is in the process of crafting an integrated
approach to aircraft survivability that combines input from
multiple on-board sensors and uses that information to detect,
track and defeat incoming enemy fire. By combining input from a
variety of different survivability systems now on-board rotary
aircraft into a single system and display screen, the Army can
streamline threat information delivery and at the same time reduce
the size, weight and power requirements for its aircraft, said Col.
John Leaphart, project manager for aircraft survivability
U.S. Army Image
"Right now we have multiple product lines -- three or four
different systems that do different things," said Leaphart. "We
need to move toward a more integrated approach, which in the future
means a suite of sensors and a suite of countermeasures that are
controlled by a common processor that runs all of them in a
Leaphart said such a system would save development and
procurement dollars. But more importantly, he said, a combined
system would weigh less than multiple systems, which reduced
aircraft weight. Such a system would also consume less power on the
aircraft. The Army is now working on computer algorithms able to
combine input from a range of different aircraft technologies
including CMWS and various now-in-development technologies, such as
the Hostile Fire Detection System and the Common Infrared
The CIRCM system is an improved, lighter-weight version of
Advanced Threat Infrared Countermeasures -- a high-tech laser
jammer that is able to thwart guided-missile attacks on helicopters
by using an infrared sensor designed to track an approaching
missile. The system fires a multiband heat laser to intercept the
missile and throw it off course, Leaphart explained. "Right now
pilots are looking at multiple displays and we need to get to a
common display," he said. "We are working on wrapping the
acquisition strategy around this so that we achieve a gradual
migration toward a more integrated approach."
A key example of this move toward integration is a new effort
called the Hostile Fire Detection System. The HFDS combines
ultraviolet and acoustic sensory input to thwart small arms fire.
"One of the big things we are facing right now in theater is small
arms fire, so we are looking at developing this HFDS. We are
getting ready to produce a quick reaction capability that involves
a piece of software that will go into the processor for CMWS and
give it the ability to detect tracer fire and other threats,"
HFDS works off of the UV sensor in the CMWS systems and adds an
algorithm into the process which enables it to differentiate tracer
fire from a missile launch. "This is bringing a new capability into
an existing system which makes that system more effective against a
broader spectrum of threats," he explained.
The next step is to connect the UV sensor to an acoustic sensor
so as to better detect multiple sources of incoming fire. The CMWS
has already proven itself in combat. "The CMWS does reduce the
immediate reaction workload of responding to a missile threat,"
said Chief Warrant Officer Pat Shores, Aviation Branch Tactical
Operations Officer; Directorate of Training and Doctrine, U.S. Army
Aviation Center of Excellence. "This also enables the crew to react
faster to destroying the threat on the ground."
Shores said he thinks America's enemies find out too late just
how effective system like CMWS actually are. "Shooting a missile at
Army aircraft is a lose-lose situation for them," Shores said.
"They have an extremely low probability of a hit, and due to the
CMWS and similar systems, they also have a high probability being
detected and destroyed after the shot."
The CIRCM program, planned as a multi-service survivability
solution for rotary-wing aircraft, aims to improve on and capture
lessons learned from the now-fielded ATIRCM technology. CIRCM is
preparing to enter a competitive development prototyping phase,
Leaphart said. A formal request for proposal for CIRCM is planned
for release by the fourth quarter of this year. "The
acquisition strategy is we will do a tech-development phase with
multiple companies in competition with each other. They will
develop two prototypes that will be evaluated during this phase.
For engineering development, a market survey will be conducted and
if warranted, a limited competition between these two vendors will
occur for EMD with a manufacturing phase for one of those,"
ATIRCM is fielded now on helicopters over Iraq and Afghanistan.
CIRCM, its replacement, lowers the weight of the system and
therefore brings with it the opportunity to deploy this kind of
laser counter-measure across a wider portion of the fleet. "This
will give the rotary wing fleet the capability to defeat IR
missiles that they don't have right now. CIRCM has a laser emitter
as part of the turret -- guided by an IR pointer. This points the
laser on the IR seeker of the inbound missile. Shooting the laser
into the IR seeker essentially blinds the missile," Leaphart
Testing and development of CIRCM will take place at a variety of
locations, to include Redstone Arsenal, AL, and Eglin AFB, FL.
Production is slated to begin by 2015.