June 19, 2007 We’ve all seen the scenario many times in films – a heat-seeking missile is launched towards a helicopter and relentlessly pursues its prey to destruction. Now it appears that there’s a removable laser Directional Infrared Countermeasures (DIRCM) System which can defeat such threats. The system was tested for the first time recently and successfully thwarted a series of simulated heat-seeking missile attacks on a Dutch AH-64D Apache helicopter during flight trials at Vliehors Test Range in the Netherlands. The small pod containing Northrop Grumman's laser Directional Infrared Countermeasures (DIRCM) system mounts to the end of the stub-wing on the Apache AH-64D attack helicopter. The system functions by automatically detecting a missile launch, determining if it is a threat and activating a high-intensity laser-based countermeasure system to track and defeat the missile.
The first application of a self-contained, removable DIRCM countermeasure pod on a military helicopter, the tests are part of a major initiative by the Royal Netherlands Air Force to upgrade the infrared missile protection of the AH-64D attack helicopter against the growing sophistication of missile threats.
The flight tests were performed on an AH-64D helicopter that featured two DIRCM-modified Apache Modular Aircraft Survivability Equipment (AMASE) pods. Final analysis of the data from all 31 flight tests proved the failure-free performance of the DIRCM system and demonstrated that all Royal Netherlands Air Force and Northrop Grumman requirements were met.
"Not only do these flight tests verify that the system functions extremely well as a self-contained, removable infrared countermeasure pod, but they also lay the foundation for widespread DIRCM system integration on the Apache helicopter platform," said Jeff Palombo, vice president of Infrared Countermeasures programs at Northrop Grumman's Defensive Systems Division. "This successful demonstration will also bring us one step closer to aiding our international allies and coalition forces in combat operations abroad."
The only such system currently in production, Northrop Grumman's DIRCM countermeasures system is now installed or scheduled for installation on several hundred military aircraft to protect more than 35 different large fixed-wing transports and small rotary-wing platforms from infrared missile attacks. The system functions by automatically detecting a missile launch, determining if it is a threat and activating a high-intensity laser-based countermeasure system to track and defeat the missile.