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German transport planes to get fiber laser protection

18 Nov 2014

Multi-spectral 'J-MUSIC' system from Elbit Systems will be used by new A400M military transport plane.

Israeli defense firm Elbit Systems is to provide its multi-spectral “J-MUSIC” infrared countermeasures system to the German Air Force, to help protect the first batch of its new Airbus A400M military transport planes from missiles.

The contract is set to be fulfilled over the course of one year, and the systems will be integrated into a multi-turret design. It is said to ensure 360-degree protection of the aircraft against attacks by ground-to-air heat-seeking man-portable missiles (MANPADS).

According to Haifa-based Elbit Systems, the J-MUSIC design is based on fiber lasers. “These systems integrate advanced fiber laser technology together with a high-rate thermal camera and a small, highly dynamic mirror turret to provide effective, reliable and affordable protection to all types of aircraft and under all operational conditions,” it claims.

The company adds that it has already delivered such systems to equip several types of aircraft for various customers. According to an Elbit brochure, the system – initially designed for small- to medium-sized jets - weighs 57 kilos and consumes 1.8 kW power.

Butzi Machlis, the firm’s CEO, added: “Our DIRCM systems provide effective protection to the growing threat of MANPADS, and we hope that additional customers will follow and select our systems as their preferred solution.”

The closely related “C-MUSIC” DIRCM system was developed for Israel’s own “Sky Shield” program, to protect large Israeli commercial aircraft from rocket-launched missiles. All the systems work by using lasers to confuse heat-seeking missiles as they look to lock onto the heat of an aircraft’s engine.

Also based on fiber laser technology, C-MUSIC is a much larger system that weighs in at 160 kilos and consumes 3 kW.

Last month saw the maiden flight of the new A400M transport planes ordered by the German Air Force, from Seville in Spain. According to Airbus, Germany has ordered 53 of the propeller-driven planes, which will be known as the A400M "Atlas" once in service.

Much smaller countermeasures systems, based on quantum cascade lasers, are currently in advanced development in the US, and promise to reduce the size of IRCM technology dramatically - as well as provide additional mid-infrared wavelengths for advanced protection.

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