Mitigating the Missiles

UH-60 (US DOD) – The US Army is investing in enhanced protection for its UH-60 series medium-lift utility helicopters via the LIMWS and ATDS initiatives.

BAE Systems expects to complete development of its Limited Interim Missile Warning System by the third quarter of 2019.

Back in April the company was awarded a contract worth $97.9 million to produce the Limited Interim Missile Warning System (LIMWS) programme for the US Army. The LIMWS architecture uses a two-colour infrared (IR) missile warning system. This will help to protect US Army rotorcraft against incoming Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAMs), air-to-air missiles, small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades. Leonardo will provide the two-colour infrared seeker equipping the system. The LIMWS will work with existing aircraft chaff and flare dispensers, and electronic warfare management systems.

Reports have stated that the LIMWS will initially equip up to 400 Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk series medium-lift utility helicopters. This could be expanded to include other aircraft in the future. According to Christopher Austin, BAE Systems’ director of advanced warning systems, development of the LIMWS should be completed by autumn 2019.

The LIMWS will augment the US Army’s existing BAE Systems AN/AAR-57 Common Missile Warning System. This uses ultraviolet sensing to detect incoming missiles and ground fire. The AN/AAR-57 has been fielded extensively since 2005. It equips over 40 distinct platforms in the US Army, according to the company.

The LIMWS replaces the AN/AAR-57’s existing sensors with the new two-colour sensor and swaps out the system’s existing processor. Mr. Austin continues that the army is expected to equip its first aircraft with the LIMWS in 2020.

Eventually, the US Army will move towards the Advanced Threat Detection System (ATDS). Official US government documents say that the ATDS will comprise an ensemble of apparatus to protect rotorcraft. These will include a laser and missile warning system, and a hostile fire indicator. The documents continued that the technologies it will procure should be at a technology readiness level of at least six: This means that the technology should be at a prototype stage and have been tested in a relevant environment, according to the US Department of Defence’ stipulations.

The army wants to initially field the ATDS in 2023 and has stated that the hardware must connect to the AN/AAR-57 architecture. In addition, the ATDS will be integrated with other aircraft survivability equipment such as the Northrop Grumman AN/APR-39(V)2 radar warning receiver and the Goodrich AN/AVR-2B laser warning system.

Recent statistics underscore the danger posed by small arms fire, SAMs and AAA (Anti-Aircraft Artillery) to combat aircraft. In late 2018 the Armaments Research Service based in Australia told the author that up to eight different models of Man-Portable Air Defence Systems (MANPADS) may be in service in the Syrian and Iraqi theatres. These include the KBM 9K32/M Strela-2/M (NATO reporting name SA-7 Grail), the KBM 9K310 Igla-1 (NATO reporting name SA-16 Gimlet), 9K38 Igla (NATO reporting name SA-18 Grouse) and 9K338 Igla-S (NATO reporting name SA-24 Grinch) IR-guided MANPADS supplied from Russian/Soviet Union stocks; the HT-16PGJ thought to have been sourced from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and the China National Precision Machinery Import and Export Corporation FN-6 IR-guided MANPADS. In Syria alone, according to the author’s figures, between 2012 and 2018 an estimated 69 aircraft have been lost to ground fire including small arms, AAA and MANPADS.

by Dr. Thomas Withington