News | Feb 6, 2020

US Navy scientists can trick heat-seeking missiles with ‘ghost’ aircraft

Laser-based tech could replace or augment traditional decoy flares

A trio of research scientists at the Naval Information Warfare Center-Pacific has invented a novel counter-measure for infrared homing missiles fired at aircraft.

Instead of launching decoy flares, an aircraft under attack would create a laser-induced plasma filament in the air, according to a Navy patent filing made public on Thursday.

“A laser system would be mounted on the back of an air vehicle such that the beam can be rastered using optics and mirrors to generate a large ‘ghost’ image in space,” the Navy’s U.S. patent application states.  “This ‘ghost’ image would appear to detract the homing missile away from the tangible air vehicle.”

The development of advanced IR-homing missiles has included new sensors with enhanced discrimination, such that they may ignore the traditional decoy flare.

“More modern infrared seekers tend to have spectral sensitivity tailored to more closely match the emissions of airplanes and reject other sources (the so-called CCM, or counter-countermeasures), the modernized decoy flares need to have their emission spectrum optimized to also match the radiation of the airplane (mainly its engines and engine exhaust),” according to the application.

The ‘ghost’ decoy would perfectly mimic temperature, and also the size and speed of the protected aircraft (or ship).

“With laser-induced plasma (LIP), it is possible to generate multiple wavelengths just by ‘tuning’ the laser parameters. This method allows for an ultra-fast response time. Due to the fact that the effect is generated by the laser beam interaction with air, the time required to produce the flares is less than a millionth of a second,” the document states.

According to the application, which lists inventors Alexandru Hening, Ryan Lu, and Ayax Ramirez, the technology is available for licensing for commercial purposes.

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