Saab has developed a missile protection system for civil aircraft which is claimed to be safer and more effective than any current technology.

The Saab Civil Aircraft Missile Protection System (CAMPS) is designed to be fitted to civil aircraft to protect from man-portable surface-to-air missile launchers. The system boasts a number of innovations designed to make it more effective.

Sophisticated filters
At a meeting of the Royal Aeronautical Society last week, Saab’s Goran Karlstrom presented the technology which uses a UV missile approach system known as MAW-300 (Missile Approach Warning). This uses four MAW sensors fitted to an aircraft which together can achieve 360º coverage.

The sensors detect the UV light emitted by a missile’s burning propellant from when it is launched and in flight. They incorporate sophisticated filters, image-intensifier tubes and a photo-counting focal array to achieve a high degree of sensitivity.

‘Over the past 10 years there have been 35 attempts on civil aircraft worldwide,’ said Karlstrom. ‘We believe this system can give a level of accuracy well beyond current anti-missile systems.’

The key to CAMPS’ effectiveness is that it will be an intelligent system that can learn what is and what is not a threat over time, making for extremely low false alarm rates, according to Karlstrom. The ‘neural net’ technology is to be calibrated this year when the sensors will be fitted to a Boeing 737 in the US and will travel to every airport in the country.

The processor in each sensor is capable of tracking and processing up to eight missiles simultaneously and the data is processed using the neural net recognition algorithms to determine whether it is a real threat or not.

The on-board processor determines the missile’s trajectory and estimated time of arrival and then initiates the deployment of the decoys at the optimum time.

Key innovation
Another key innovation is in the decoy flares which were developed by UK counter measure specialist, Chemring. Importantly, if the system is to be used at a civil airport the decoys are designed so that they are non-pyrotechnic and leave no burning materials or residue behind.

When the onboard processor has decided that there is a threat from an incoming missile the decoys are released from an electromechanical dispenser and release energy in the infrared spectrum, which is invisible to the human eye. The decoys are packaged in plastic so they are safe to handle by airport ground crew, and burst free of their packaging in a fast airstream. Karlstrom claimed that, in tests, the CAMPS system has achieved a 99 per cent detection success, and that Saab was aiming for a 90–93 per cent overall success rate in countering surface-to-air missile attacks.

The technology is due to be fitted to an unnamed European head of state’s Gulfstream business jet later this year, and Karlstrom estimated that the first civil system would be delivered in 2007 at a cost of $500,000. He added that a cockpit panel to give pilots some control over the system was optional.