Something that works in military acquisition: aircraft survivability equipment

It’s hard to believe today how low aircraft survivability equipment — for helicopters, especially — ranked on the Pentagon’s funding priority list in 2002.

Back then, ATK’s AAR-47 UV-based jam-head was grossly underfunded, the US Army robbed funds for producing a fully-developed, second-generation common missile warning system (CMWS), and no one dared to dream of moving to a third-generation technology with a two-color, infrared (IR) seeker.

My, how times have changed.

Barrels of cash have poured into the AAR-47 and CMWS accounts since 2002, and both have produced real results in the field.

Now, the US Navy and US Marine Corps are moving forward with a third-generation program called the joint and allied threat awareness system (JATAS), aiming to start replacing all the AAR-47s and BAE Systems AAR-57s over the next two decades.

It will not only move beyond UV seeker technology, which is limited to a range of about 2 miles, but will also seek to introduce a hostile fire indicator. That would finally give helicopter crews awareness that they’re being shot at, and not just by missiles.

I interviewed the USN’s and USMC’s program managers for JATAS yesterday, and I’ll post the story here when it gets published on

I spill a lot of ink writing about all the bad stuff going on in military acquisition. It’s nice to write about something that’s working for a change.


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