Airport protection

Raytheon today announced a new ground-based airport protection system that uses high power microwave technology to protect commercial aircraft from shoulder-fired missiles.


Raytheon today announced a new, affordable ground-based airport protection system that uses high power microwave technology to protect commercial aircraft from shoulder-fired missiles.



Known as Vigilant Eagle, the company said in a statement that the airfield-based directed electromagnetic energy system protects the flying public against the threat of surface-to-air missiles including MANPADS (Manportable Air Defence System).



“Raytheon is in the process of rolling out its Vigilant Eagle technology that defeats the most important classes of man-portable missiles in seconds without any alteration to or involvement by the aircraft using the airport,” said Mike Booen, vice president of Directed Energy Weapons at Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, Arizona.



“Not only has our Vigilant Eagle system been proven effective, but it looks to be at least 10 times less costly than the current aircraft-based countermeasure programs now in development. A prototype system has been field tested and proven effective against important MANPADS threats. Perhaps most importantly, it can be made ready for trial installations in the US or at BaghdadInternationalAirport years ahead of current development programs.”



Vigilant Eagle is installed at airports, rather than on individual aircraft. It consists of three interconnected primary components: a distributed Missile Warning System (MWS), a command and control computer, and the High-power Amplifier-Transmitter (HAT), which consists of a billboard- sized electronically steered array of antennas linked to solid state amplifiers.



The MWS is a pre-positioned grid of passive infrared sensors, mounted on cell phone towers or buildings to cover the required detection space. Each missile detection is confirmed by at least two sensors in an overlapping grid, yielding a low false alarm rate.



The command and control computer provides pointing commands to the HAT and also connects to the airport security interface. The command and control computer capability includes determination of the launch point to notify security forces, enabling capture of the terrorists who fired the missile.


The HAT radiates a tailored electromagnetic waveform to disrupt the missile and deflect it away from the aircraft. Raytheon said that created electromagnetic fields are well within OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) standards for personnel exposure limits.