Hard kill protection for helicopters: can it be achieved?

Technology moves both ways. Sometimes it moves from air to ground and sometimes from ground to air.

The direction is not important. What is important is the urgent operational need that sometimes comes from a very unexpected direction . This is almost a paradox, but one that has caused loss of lives. Helicopters in many combat zones defined as “low intensity”, are being shot down with the simplest weapons like the old RPG shoulder launched rockets or any other unguided projectile that can travel a short range in direct line. Direct aim, no sensors, a helicopter is downed.

Two unique Israeli active protection systems, designed to defend tanks and armed personnel carriers (APCs) from rockets and shells, may be converted for use on helicopters. The development direction is logical, but will involve a lot of miniaturization and other advanced technologies.

The drive to develop the new protection systems for helicopters stems from the success of similar systems that were developed for ground missions.

The Trophy made by Rafael and the Iron Fist, made by Israel Military Industries (IMI), create a hemispheric protected zone around the vehicle where incoming threats are intercepted and defeated. When a threat is detected, identified and verified, the system launches the classified interceptor and it deflects and destabilizes the rocket or shell, so that it does not hit its target.

Both systems are using special radar systems to locate and identify the threats.

While the Israeli Air Force (IAF) helicopters are using EW systems against missiles, there is a need to protect them against weapons like RPG rockets. These have downed many helicopters in Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan.

Both companies confirmed that there is a “thought” about developing versions of the systems that will be carried by helicopters. Both companies were reluctant to be more specific, but sources say that the interest comes from some foreign air forces that have encountered the problem.

Converting the systems will involve downsizing them and changing the way the interceptors are being launched to defeat the incoming threat.

This is not an easy task, mainly because of the weight of such a system but as miniaturization breaks new records every month, the task seems more reachable.











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