Israel's government has not provided enough funds to complete certification of the Elta decoy-based countermeasures system selected to protect the country's airliners. Tests will begin soon and will be funded by the Israel Aircraft Industries subsidiary.

The Israeli ministry of transport says additional funds will be allocated shortly, and is trying to find extra funding sources to allow Elta to certificate the system for use on passenger aircraft. The main aim of the tests is to prove that the pyrophoric decoys used in the SafeFlight system can defeat shoulder-launched missiles like the SA-7.

The transport ministry announced in September that it was providing $1.4 million for flight tests of a commercial-aircraft version of Elta's Flight Guard with the intent of installing the flare-based countermeasures system on the country's airliners. In October, Raytheon announced it had teamed with Elta to offer the SafeFlight system for the US Department of Homeland Security's counter-manpads programme.

While the military Flight Guard system, already operational on several VIP commercial aircraft, combines Elta's pulse-Doppler radar missile-warning sensor with advanced pyrotechnic flares made by Israel Military Industries, SafeFlight uses safer pyrophoric, or special-materials decoys, in a Raytheon dispensing system.

There is wide opposition to the use of conventional flares because of the risk of igniting ground fires. Pyrophoric decoys burn cooler and faster and are virtually invisible to the naked eye. Sources close to the programme say the special decoys will be spring ejected to avoid the use of pyrotechnics on commercial aircraft.

The teaming between Elta and Raytheon is aimed mainly at facilitating certification of the system. SafeFlight was one of five candidates shortlisted for the US counter-manpads programme, but was not selected by the DHS, which chose two laser-based directed infrared countermeasures (DIRCM) systems and one decoy-based solution.

Rafael, meanwhile, is continuing ground tests of its lamp-based Britening DIRCM against shoulder-launched missiles and plans the first airborne test in the third quarter. Israeli defence sources say the company is looking at co-operation with Elbit Systems' Elop subsidiary, which is developing the laser-based multi-spectral infrared countermeasures (Music) system. The first ground test of the Britening was held last March at the Udva air force base in southern Israel. The prototype was installed on an Arkia Airlines Boeing 757, the operator and aircraft involved in the unsuccessful missile attack in Kenya in November 2002. Britening uses ultraviolet sensors to detect missile launch and cue the gimballed turret housing the lamp-based directional infrared jammer.

Elop, meanwhile, says the laser-based Music system will be ready for testing within a few months. Music differs from other DIRCMs in that the laser source is inside the aircraft and connected by fibre-optic cable to the turret, or jam head. This allows use of a high-power, dual-band laser generator able to counter a wide range of missiles. The jam head is smaller, reducing drag.

US subsidiary Kollsman unsuccessfully offered Music for the counter-manpads programme, but Elbit president Joseph Ackerman says talks are under way with both aircraft manufacturers and operators. A tie-up with Elop, meanwhile, would increase the capability of Rafael's Britening.

Source: Flight International