Manufacturer aims prototype of two-colour sensor at Airbus A400M transport

EADS Defence Electronics is developing a two-colour missile warning system, aiming to complete a prototype in time for selection of Step 2 equipment for the Airbus Military A400M transport.

The Ulm, Germany-based company says that it has the "good basis of a prototype" for the algorithms required to process and merge the two sets of images in the multi-colour infrared (MCIR) sensor.

Frank Negretti, EADS Defence Electronics vice-president for electronic-warfare and object-warning systems, says that development of a two-colour system has been under way since the mid-1990s in a bid to reduce the false-alarm rate of conventional missile warning sensors.

Current ultraviolet sensors have blind spots when looking towards the Sun due to solar flare, while conventional infrared sensors have high false-alarm rates when looking towards the ground in urban evironments where there are many hot objects emitting radiation in the 3-5µ range.

Negretti says the EADS sensor will cover the 3-5µ and 5-12µ infrared wavelengths simultaneously and processes the raw data into a single black-and-white image containing only those heat sources visible in both spectra. "The goal is below one false alarm per flight hour," he says.

Negretti says development of the missile warning sensor had been stalled at a fairly advanced stage as there was no supplier of a two-colour detector chip until early last year.

The company flight-tested a prototype in 2001-3 with two separate sensors. The first two-colour "super lattice" detector chip, produced using a compound of indium, arsenic and gallium, is set to be delivered next month by AEG Infrarot-Module.

EADS will integrate the two-colour detector into its existing system and begin a test programme by the end of the year. A key challenge will be lightweight cooling for the sensor.

The Franco-German company hopes to have the system available in time for A400M Step 2 equipment selection, with a three-sensor configuration envisaged. But Negretti says the "dream is to slot the sensor heads into standard pods", allowing integration on to fast jets.

"We hope the A400M will be the launch platform, but the system has fighter applications as well," he says.


Source: Flight International