Rising MANPAD Threats Expand Business Prospects for Israeli Developed Protection Systems

By Arie Egozi

Defence Industry

Tel Aviv: In recent months, there is a renewed interest in systems that can protect aircraft from shoulder launched missiles. Israeli companies that make these systems have been contacted mainly by operators of business jets that fly in areas where these missiles are in the hands of terror organisations.

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Israeli sources told Raksha Anirveda that the demand can be partially explained by the great number of humanitarian flights connected with the war in Ukraine that are performed by business jets. According to a report in the website of the arms control association, despite the global campaign to counter the illicit proliferation of Man Portable Air defence systems ( MANPADS ), the Small Arms Survey has identified reports of illicit MANPADS in over 32 countries and territories since 2011. These reports include the imagery of dozens of advanced systems acquired by non-state actors including Russian proxies in Ukraine prior to Russia’s 2022 invasion and ethnic armed groups in Myanmar.

Although the vast majority of MANPADS are in national stockpiles, terrorists and other non-state actors have acquired the anti-aircraft missiles through deliberate transfers, the black market, or theft. Israel was confronted with the threat of MANAPDS in 2002 when two such rockets , were launched in the direction of an Israeli passenger aircraft that took off from Mombasa in Kenya. The rockets missed the aircraft and it continued its flight and landed safely in Tel Aviv.

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Following this incident, the Israel ministry of defence asked the defence industry to find a solution to the threat. The first system was based on dispensing decoy flares but soon it was followed by a more advanced one. The Elbit Systems MUSIC protection systems was the first operational systems that was installed on Israeli passengers aircraft of the Israeli airlines. The Directed Infra-Red Counter Measure (DIRCM) systems developed by Elbit Systems are made to defend aircraft from ground-to-air missiles that home on the heat of the aircraft’s engines.

The different versions of the Elbit MUSIC systems combines a compact, extremely dynamic mirror turret, a high frame rate thermal camera, and cutting edge laser technology. According  to the Israeli company, this innovative combination provides efficient, dependable, and reasonably priced protection for all kinds of aircraft under all operating conditions.

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As per Elbit Systems, the systems can be easily linked with any kind of MWS (missile warning system) and other defensive aids on any kind of aircraft. The Israeli government has chosen Elbit Systems’ DIRCM systems to safeguard Israeli commercial airliners; the Israeli Air Force has chosen them to safeguard military platforms; NATO has chosen them to safeguard the multi-national A330 MRTT fleet program; the German Air Force has chosen them to safeguard the A400M national program.

But the big market is the VIP and business aircraft around the world. Elbit Systems does not reveal the number of different types of its MUSIC systems that were sold in this market but sources said that it is “impressive”.

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Another Israeli company that has developed such protection systems is Bird Aerosystems. Its SPREOS, an integral part of the AMPS MD system, combines a semi-active dual band radar and directional IR countermeasure. Queued by the missile warning sensors, SPREOS points towards the suspected threat, performs a Doppler-based interrogation to confirm the existence of a valid threat, and extracts its key parameters. In addition, SPREOS precisely tracks and points an advanced 5th generation solid-state Quantum Cascade Laser (QCL) towards the threat for the most effective jamming of the missile while continually assessing the jamming effectiveness.