JED - May 2009 - (Page 28)

The Integrated Future of ASE By Marianne Kunkel and John Knowles As operations in Afghanistan and Iraq have demonstrated, helicopters are just as important to irregular warfare as they are to more conventional military operations. In countries where the road infrastructure is poor and where improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and landmines also can limit ground movement, utility and transport helicopters are essential for moving troops and supplies. But helicopters fly in a deadly threat envelope, where advanced infrared (IR)-guided Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS), AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) are effective, inexpensive and easy to obtain. In places like Iraq and Afghanistan, there is no Forward Line of Own Troops (FLOT), and helicopter crews know that insurgents can fire these weapons at their helicopter from just about anywhere at any time. This type of scenario represents one of the major market drivers in today’s helicopter electronic warfare (EW) market. THE AFFORDABILITY CHALLENGE Due to their low flight profile and relatively slow speed, helicopters fly in a diverse and deadly threat environment that can include radio frequency (RF)-guided missiles, sensor-directed anti-aircraft artillery, IR-guided missiles, laser rangefinders, laser-guided weapons, small arms and RPGs. Developing an aircraft survivability equipment (ASE) suite for helicopters that can handle this multispectral threat environment presents a unique set of technical and cost challenges. A fully integrated EW suite, comprising a digital radar warning receiver/electronic support measures (RWR/ESM) system, an RF jammer, a laser warning system (LWS), a passive missile warning system (MWS), an all-laser directed IR countermeasures (DIRCM) system and multiple countermeasures dispensers, can cost $2 to $3 million (or more for a large helicopter like a CH-47). This figure, which represents today’s technology, is well outside the affordability envelope for most users. The US Army, for instance, has said in the past that it expects to pay $500,000 for a multispectral ASE suite. This price goal may seem unrealistic, but the Army has 2,500 helicopters in its inventory. It cannot afford to upgrade this fleet with a full ASE suite at today’s prices. Over the next decade, EW manufacturers and their military customers will need to close the affordability gap and begin fielding full ASE suites across the majority of their helicopter fleets. As operations in Afghanistan and Iraq have demonstrated, the threat environment is becoming more deadly for helicopters. Since 2003, the US Army alone has lost 40 helicopters to enemy fire in Iraq and Afghanistan. Imaging IR-guided threats and advanced laser-cued/guided threats are proliferating in countries and among non-state organizations throughout the world. Small arms, although less effective, are far more numerous than guided threats. They account for the majority of helicopter shoot-downs in the Global War on Terror (GWOT). In addition, commercial technology is enabling radarguided threats to become more effective and less expensive to buy and operate. All of these threat trends will drive the need for more comprehensive ASE suites on helicopters in the coming decade. DRIVEN BY THE GWOT The GWOT has forced the United States to invest heavily in helicopter EW over the past several years, primarily in the IR countermeasures arena. This has not been steady spending, however. In FY02, the US Army spent a mere

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of JED - May 2009

JED - May 2009
The View From Here
From the President
The Monitor
Washington Report
World Report
Protecting Helicopters
Ground-Based COMINT Steps Up
Roost Profile
EW 101
AOC News
Index to Advertisers
JED Sales Offices
JED Quick Look

JED - May 2009