Global defense giant BAE Systems has unveiled a new electronics countermeasure suite designed to protect aircraft, particularly vulnerable helicopters, and their crews from infrared-guided missiles and other threats.
At the same time, the London-based company also announced a new $11 million U.S. Army contract to fortify ground vehicles for soldier protection by adding “bar armor” (similar to the “slat armor” commonly used on Stryker armored fighting vehicles) kits and said it received funding to upgrade hundreds of Bradley fighting vehicles.
With its countermeasures initiative, BAE said its new Boldstroke DIRCM (Directable Infrared Countermeasures) system is “the next step in aircraft survivability equipment.” The company described Boldstroke as a modular, lightweight and “low cost” infrared countermeasures platform. BAE Systems’ earlier ATIRCM system has been flying on U.S. helicopters and is credited with saving several.
Although BAE did not announce any contracts for Boldstroke, analysts said it could find traction at the Pentagon and allied militaries despite tight defense budgets.
BAE said Boldstroke is fully compatible with the company’s Common Missile Warning System and consists of flight-proven hardware and algorithms. It also allows for direct and fiber coupling between the laser and pointer/tracker, providing installation flexibility to meet the size, weight, and power requirements of both light and heavy rotary-wing platforms, the company said.
“Helicopters are essential to mission success, but aircrews and the troops they carry must contend with a growing array of threats, particularly infrared-guided missiles and hostile fire,” said Dr. Mark Hutchins, Boldstroke program manager. “It’s imperative to integrate on-board multispectral sensors to detect, track, and defeat incoming missiles or hostile fire threats.”
Meanwhile, BAE showcased a new $20 million facility for evaluating equipment used to defend helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft from infrared-guided missiles.
Called the Worrell/Weeks Aircrew Protection Center, the facility is part of a three-year, $70 million investment in advanced engineering and production systems for aircraft survivability equipment, company officials said.
It commemorates Maj. Matthew Wade Worrell and Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jamie Dunbar Weeks, pilots of the U.S. Army 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment “Night Stalkers” who were killed when their helicopter was shot down by enemy fire during combat operations in Iraq in May 2006.
The new facility allows missile warning and hostile fire detection systems to be tested under demanding conditions that simulate the actual temperature, vibration, and motion characteristics of flight, BAE executives said. They noted the facility sports two independent flight motion simulators, a two-axis gantry that simulates movable threats, and indoor and outdoor test ranges.
BAE also said it remains focused on protecting warfighters inside ground vehicles from rocket-propelled grenade attacks. The company recently received an $11 million U.S. Army contract to produce “bar armor” kits for Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicles.
Called L-ROD bar armor, the system is a lightweight, modular configuration made of an aluminum alloy. BAE said L-ROD equipment protects against RPGs with “minimum” impact to operational capabilities.
At less than half the weight of comparable steel designs, the slat/bar armor kits bolt onto the vehicles without the need for welding or cutting, the company said, adding that the modular design allows for easy field repair.
In a related development, BAE said it recently received a $91 million U.S. Army contract modification to extend the operating life of 552 Bradley fighting vehicles.
The “reset process” includes replacing obsolete components with updated designs and restoring the Bradleys to “pre-combat condition.” Company officials said they also would incorporate a variety of survivability enhancements for the fighting vehicles.
Besides manufacturing the Bradleys, the company has already refurbished more than 3,390 of them since 2007. The modification work builds on another contract the company received in March 2010 for $145 million, along with earlier funding of $242.5 million, BAE said.