Technology aims to pinpoint enemy shooters and RPG launches against helicopters

Using static electricity detectors to sense gunfire against helicopters, and perhaps pinpoint the locations of the shooters, are the goals of a new US government-funded research effort by BAE Systems.

The technology to identify the static-energy signatures of gunfire and rocket-propelled grenade launches already exists. The problem is isolating those signals amid the larger static electric disturbance caused by a helicopter's rotor blades. BAE Systems has launched a seven-month feasibility study under a $6 million contract awarded earlier this month by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The E-Field Hostile Fire Emitter programme is divided into two key efforts - cataloguing static energy signatures of small-arms weapons and analysing the electric field generated by a helicopter, says William Shores, director of programme development for advanced systems and concepts.

DARPA also has a $2.5 million contract option to continue the programme if the seven-month study shows potential. "The emphasis is on proving that the technology works," says Shores.

A rash of US Army helicopter shootdowns - including at least two caused by RPG fire - in Iraq in late 2003 triggered a frantic search for new technology (Flight International, 16-22 March 2004). A US Army study probed the potential of new ballistic blanket technology, passive sensors and active countermeasures against small arms threats.

The BAE Systems-proposed solution, if proven feasible, would be focused mainly on developing a method to distinguish gunfire signatures aboard a moving helicopter at "tactically useful ranges", says Shores, who declines to elaborate. Shores adds that the potential exists for the same technology to identify the location of the gunfire.


Source: Flight International