Flightline and Field Testers
CI Systems Compact Lab/depot/Field missile signal simulators provide a go/no go approach to mission ready missile warning systems. These hand held units are programmable to provide the required IR signal signature required to test the missile warning system counter measures. UV/SWIR/SINGLE/DUAL testers are available.
Long Range Simulators
CI Systems’ long range IR simulators provide a low cost alternative to live testing of MWS and countermeasure deployment of aircraft by simulating approaching missile engine radiation in the field. Dual band simulation helps assure accurate detection/rejection
Using Lab Simulations for Advanced Missile Approach Warning Systems
Missile approach warning (MAW) systems have been around for decades after they were first used in the aftermath of the Second World War in the 1960s and their subsequent proliferation during the Cold War in the 1970s. Employed as a timely and efficient method to detect incoming missiles from beyond enemy lines – both on the air and from the surface – missile approach warning systems have helped countries protect their military forces as a form of defense in air combats, especially during times of crises and wars.
However, MAWs demand a lot of overhead when it comes to their testing and maintenance. Although the advancement in such missile detection systems has changed radically, especially after the arrival of infrared-enabled MANPADS or man-portable air defense systems, their testing infrastructure still needs extensive resources.
One way to limit these requirements and reduce the overall cost of maintaining MAWs is to use laboratory simulations. These are possible through missile warning system testing, a setup that simulates incoming missile radiation signature and helps MAWs to enact and test their counter processes in real time. Such testing setups can also work in conjunction with electronic countermeasures (ECM) to provide a holistic review of the missile warning system under test.
Here’s how missile warning system testers can help revolutionize the way such systems are kept up-to-date and even developed while reducing costs and resources.
Need for Missile Warning Systems Testing
Missile warning systems are mainly employed for self-defense.
Statistics from the post-Second World War period to the late 1960s show
that most of the aircraft that were lost to missile strikes were a
result of infrared-based or similar missiles. A majority of these
aircraft commanders were unaware of the approaching missile attack. Had
they known or been tipped off about the attacks in any manner, they
could have employed maneuver techniques, engaged countermeasures, or at
best, activated self-ejection.
It may be worth noting that IR-guided missiles claimed the most
number of aircraft because there were no warning systems then to detect
them promptly and warn the pilots. The situation further worsened after
the invention of MANPADS which could launch missiles into the air from
land, mostly within short distances. It became even more difficult for
aircraft to detect these, let alone respond with a counterattack.
All of this gradually led to the development of missile approach
warning systems, a subset of avionics that both detects and warns of an
incoming attack and activates any of the available countermeasures. They
depend on passive sensor technology that targets and detects the plume
that is typically created by a non-IR trailing missile. In most cases,
the sensor is a cone-shaped addendum to the tail of an aircraft that can
detect a missile attack from all directions. The sensor is connected to
the extended MAW system, which is in turn connected to the ECM and
other countermeasure systems available on the aircraft.
Over the years, there has also been some development in detecting satellite-based, ultra-long-range missile attacks deployed by enemy countries.
How Are Missile Approach Warning Systems Tested?
In the 1960s and 1970s, when missile approach warning systems
were being developed, they were tested through trial-and-error methods.
In almost all cases, the testing would happen on the field with aircraft
flying at low altitudes and usage of missile beams that do not explode.
As noted above, there are two aspects to a MAW system. Firstly, it
should be able to detect an approaching missile attack either through
radar or some other form of detection. Once such a missile has been
detected, the system also has to activate a countermeasure along with
informing the pilot of the aircraft for human intervention. Out of these
two, detection is often the most challenging part.
An aircraft may have all the necessary equipment to counterattack an
enemy fire but for that it has to know about the attack and have time to
prepare. In the 1960s, by the time an aircraft would detect an incoming
missile, it would be too late.
This calls for the MAW systems to have a set of functional requirements such as:
- Quick detection
- 100% or near-100% accuracy in detection
- Quick response time (not more than a second)
- Low false alarm rate
- Accuracy in azimuth and missile elevation angle information
- Fully automated detection and counterattack design
In essence, the testers need to tackle three main types of missile
attacks, namely pulse-doppler, ultraviolet, and infrared. Each has
distinct characteristics, hence a MAW testing system that is capable of
detecting all or most types of attacks is preferred. Most MAWs today
work on the ultraviolet and infrared wavelength ranges, which are easier
to detect with low false alarm ratios and quicker response times.
However, this was not always the case.
Cost Considerations and Other Limitations of Live Testing
Such precision equipment that’s also light on the aircraft and
fully automated can pose subsequent challenges. One of them is the cost
to continuously test and upgrade them. With different types of artillery
now being used in military combat, it is critical for even missile
approach warning systems to update themselves.
MAW systems should also have a facility for human intervention.
Although human intervention adds to the response time of the overall
system, there has to be built-in functionality in the avionics for the
commander to manage the system more effectively if and when needed.
Another critical area in the R&D of such systems is how they
blend in with existing avionics. Since the cockpit has limited space, it
is best to combine the human-machine interface of such MAW testers with
the existing avionics controls. Every upgrade or improvement made to a
system should have this consideration to avoid any overhead in terms of
both cost and installation.
All of these pose challenges during testing and maintenance, which
can be solved by using a cost-effective and -efficient method of
Efficacy of Laboratory Testing of Missile Warning Systems
Modern lab-based MAW system testing equipment began to be
operational in the late 1990s. As the demand for such detection and
countermeasure techniques sprang, so did the need for testing systems
that helped engineers across national defense and private companies keep
the MAW avionics up-to-date. For instance, Lockheed Martin began experimenting with lab-based testing of missile warning systems in 1998.
The basic principle of such an equipment involves a mechanism that
simulates an aircraft and missile projection. The sensors that are part
of a MAW system are fed the simulated projectiles to see how they react
and perform. Tens of hundreds of iterations are enacted across various
angles and radiation power to rate the system and make corrections and
add upgrades if any.
In some mechanisms, it is also possible to check whether the
countermeasures thus employed by an aircraft during a simulation would
have been effective. This gives an overall perspective of how a MAW
system would perform on a flight.
Types of Missile Warning System Testers
There are different types of missile warning system testers
available in the avionics market today. The variety largely depends on
the missile range and type. These testers primarily depend on spectral
radiance measurement to detect an approaching missile and activate the
In the global avionics industry, missile warning system testers are broadly classified into two types:
- Handheld field testers
- Long range simulators
As the name suggests, field testers simulate the radial spectrum of
handheld missile launchers like MANPADS. These projections are directed
toward aircraft missile warning systems to see how they react and act
out. These are mostly low-range systems that can be carried out in a
small hangar or inside a lab.
On the other hand, long-range simulators provide dual-band simulation
and are used to test more advanced missile warning systems, both for
surface and air attacks. In comparison with field testers, they have a
longer range and higher accuracy.
Examples of such MAW testers are handheld field tester MSS-UV and infrared threat simulator (IRTS)
by CI Systems. The latter looks like a speed gun that needs to be
pointed to an aircraft’s MAW sensors to gauge its performance and
counteraction. The IRTS is a more robust system that can simulate the
infrared spectrum of missiles approaching from as far as 5 kilometers.
It is mostly used for advanced MAW testing and aircraft crew training.
Such systems can offset environmental conditions and provide more
accurate simulation for near-100% precision testing.
Other types of advanced MAW testers include:
- Ultraviolet Threat Simulators (UVTS) – for UV plume simulation with variable speed and range features. Read more >
- Laser-based Threat Simulators. Read more >
- SWIR Threat Simulators – simulates SWIR missile profiles based on a variety of parameters. Read more >
The development of laboratory-based missile approach warning system
testers is a boon to the aviation and defense industry as they provide
cost-efficient maintenance and upgrade solutions. Over the last decade,
such systems by leading manufacturers such as CI Systems are also being
used for further research and development, especially in developing