Aircraft Countermeasures and the Dual Spectral Threat
Since the Vietnam War, Infra- Red (IR) seeking missiles have accounted for more than 50 % of all aircraft losses in action (this figure was 78 % during the Gulf War in 1991). As missile systems get smaller, cheaper and more man-portable, the need for effective Infra-Red Countermeasures (IRCM) has never been greater.
More recently and of great concern is the threat posed by the proliferation of shoulder-launched missiles generically known as MANPADs. Such was the concern over these weapon systems that during the air campaigns over the Balkans and Afghanistan, operations below 10,000 feet were severely restricted. Consequently the highly prized low-level airspace was conceded to the enemy. These concerns were entirely justified: many UAVs? were lost to the IR threat and helicopter aircrews had to pioneer some advanced tactics in order to minimize their exposure to the lethal SAM rings.
There are estimated to be nearly 500,000 MANPADs worldwide. No matter how intense and successful SEAD/DEAD and ECM operations have been in hindering enemy air defences, the IR threat remains the most hidden and the most potent. From the initial appearance of early first generation, through to the newest third generation of seeker technology, Wallop Defence Systems has been tasked time and again to design and produce an effective countermeasure against these latest threats.
Currently, the EW community has turned its attention to the very latest dual spectral IR-seeking MANPAD of which there is significant proliferation, particularly in geographical areas of major concern. This generation of weapon uses a dual sensor system that can discriminate between the low energy IR output of an aircraft and the high energy IR output of a classic magnesiumbased countermeasure fl are.
This ability to compare target energy with fl are energy has provided the weapon with a counter-countermeasure (CCM), which is extremely effective. Further, the quality and reliability in the manufacturing of this dual seeker is so variable that its CCM trigger level against fl ares is equally as variable. In other words, for each level of discrimination an aircraft would need a fl are of matched performance. One wonders if this is the ?weapon too far?.
Once again Wallop Defence Systems Research & Development has risen to the challenge in providing the answer. The manufacture of dual spectral fl are countermeasures is already here and in all of the usual formats. These new fl ares are already being fl own and have successfully been deployed by the coalition forces operating in areas of recent confl ict.
However, the development of these next generation spectral fl ares has been a hardfought battle. If it were not for the continued liaison between Wallop Defence Systems Limited, government defence research establishments, and (ultimately) the end user, this successful result may not have been achieved.
As threat systems become ever-more sophisticated, the development and deployment of countermeasures must keep pace ensuring that our war fighters have the necessary capabilities to carry out their mission, defeat the enemy, and protect themselves. It is therefore of utmost importance that the defence industry, governments, and the armed forces continue to strengthen their working relationship in countermeasure development.
Technical Director and Head of
Research & Development Wallop
Defence Systems Limited
In 1978 Nick Barlow joined what was then Wallop Industries as a drawing office assistant and within 6 years found himself the Senior Design Draftsman for Air Countermeasures.
From then until 1990, Nick was personally responsible for the design and development of many of the Infra-Red Air Countermeasures used by the RAF. During the Falklands War and first Gulf War his leadership meant the UK forces had protective countermeasures developed to meet new threats, saving aircraft and lives. After a short break in the early 1990?s Nick returned to Wallop Defence Systems playing a key role in the development of new products. In 2000, as Technical Director, he embarked on a programme which has put WDS in a worldleading position in IRCM technology.
His enthusiasm, strong leadership, dedication and expertise have contributed to the spectacular growth of WDSL from a turnover of £3.8M in 2000 to circa £20M in 2004. 2005 will be yet another record year of growth with over 70% of sales outside the UK which represents a truly remarkable achievement in the Aerospace and Defence industry. During recent confl icts, the advanced fl ares that Nick and his team have developed are once again saving the lives of UK pilots and those of our allies.