C4iSR: Air

Israel tests SkyShield/C-MUSIC against live threats

26 February 2014
A Boeing 737 testbed was used in this latest series of trials of the SkyShield/C-MUSIC counter-MANPADS system. The aerodynamic pod housing the system can be seen on the under-fusleage, just aft of the wings. Source: Elbit Systems

The Israeli government has undertaken a series of live trials of the Elbit Systems SkyShield/ Commercial Multi-Spectral Infrared Countermeasures (C-MUSIC) missile protection system to protect national airliners from the threat of man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS), the company disclosed on 26 February.

The tests, which were conducted by the Israel Missile Defense Organisation (IMDO), the Civil Aviation Authority at the Ministry of Transport, and Elbit Systems, took place in the south of Israel aboard a Boeing 737 testbed. SkyShield is the Israeli government programme to protect its airliners against MANPADS, while C-MUSIC is the system being used to achieve this.

According to Elbit Systems, they "were the most complex and sophisticated ever held in the State of Israel … [and] included a wide variety of threats that the SkyShield system would have to tackle in order to protect passenger aircraft."

A company spokesperson told IHS Jane's that these latest trials of the system are different from those conducted aboard a Boeing 707 in January 2013, in that they trialled the system against real surface-to-air threats whereas previously only aerodynamic flight trials of the aircraft and system have been carried out.

Israeli media has reported that live rockets were fired at the Boeing 737 during these latest trials, but neither the Israeli government nor Elbit Systems would comment on the specific nature of the tests. It is not clear if the aircraft was manned or unmanned at the time.

None of the parties involved would speak to the outcome of the latest trials, except to say that SkyShield/C-MUSIC "was proven effective, successfully performing all of the needed functions."

SkyShield/C-MUSIC is a passive system that employs a forward-looking infrared (FLIR) missile-tracking camera and an infrared (IR), ultra-violet (UV), or radar missile-approach warning system (MAWS) sensor to detect a missile launch in the very early stages of an attack. Once detected, a laser is fired at the missile, jamming its seeker and causing it to be diverted away from the aircraft.

The system is housed on the underside fuselage in a single aerodynamic and unobtrusive pod, and can be fitted during the normal maintenance cycle so as not to inconvenience the airline.

Israel will be the first country to equip its civilian airliner fleet with defensive aids, a decision largely born out of a failed 2002 terrorist attempt to bring down an El Al jet that had just departed Mombasa in Kenya. The Israeli government has not published a timeline as to when this system will be rolled out across the country's commercial airliner fleet.

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