Protection of air assets such as helicopters has become increasingly important as the threat array has not only intensified in recent years, but has also shifted in focus from large missile systems to man-portable missiles and gunfire. Such weapons have become a real threat to low-level operations of both rotary-and-fixed-wing aircraft, a factor highlighted during operations in several Middle East theatres.
As well as showcasing its aircraft weaponisation programmes for types such as the Airbus DS AC-235 light gunship on show here, Cessna AC-208 Caravan and Leonardo/Alenia MC-27J, Orbital ATK (Hall 6, Stand C644) is presenting a range of its aircraft protection systems.
Among them is the popular AAR- 47 missile warning system, which integrates a laser and IR-based warning system in a common installation. In its later versions, AAR-47 also gives a measure of hostile fire detection of gunfire by detecting tracer rounds.
For a more dedicated gunfire detection solution, Orbital ATK has devised an innovative acoustic sensor that can easily be applied to any platform. Other acoustic shot indicators typically employ systems with sensors distributed around the airframe, requiring complicated wiring runs and the cutting of numerous apertures to mount and connect the sensors.
In contrast, Orbital ATK’s ShotFinder system is incorporated into a single circular antenna not much larger than a dinner plate. Mounted on the underside of the helicopter, the ShotFinder provides 360° coverage beneath, and requires just a single aperture/mounting and a single wiring installation. It weighs less than 3lb and has a power requirement of lower than 4W.
The system can be fine-tuned to meet the particular type of platform, to cancel the effects of noises that are peculiar to that type of helicopter.
ShotFinder can be installed as a standalone system, providing a visual threat warning and bearing in a circular display. Alternatively, it can be used in conjunction with other threat warning systems. An option is to have an aural warning with directional cues in the crew’s headsets. The system detects both the muzzle blast and the airflow noise of a fired round.
Orbital ATK has undertaken several live-fire demonstrations of the system, including tests for an unnamed customer in the Middle East. Those trials were successful and the company is now in negotiations with that nation.