What are infrared countermeasures?

Infrared Countermeasures (IRCM) are a class of Aircraft Survivability Equipment (ASE) designed to protect rotary- and fixed-wing aircraft from infrared (IR) guided (heat seeking) missiles.

While earlier-generation kinetic countermeasures systems performed this lifesaving task by dispensing expendable "flare" decoys to confuse the infrared guidance systems of missiles, that approach is often ineffective against the improved, variable-signal homing systems of today's IR missiles. IRCM systems were introduced to confuse IR heat seekers using "always-on" modulated infrared radiation to create a hotter heat source than the aircraft's engines produced to re-direct the missile away from its intended target.

While the original IRCM systems are more effective against IR missile threats than expendable decoy countermeasures, their design was soon followed by a more effective, directed energy evolution of the IRCM concept – the DIRCM, or Directional Infrared Countermeasures. In a DIRCM system, the energy source is mounted in a strategically-located movable laser turret that only functions in "active mode" when the aircraft's missile warning system warns of a missile launch. It then targets the missile's heat plume to accurately focus a pulsing IR beam at the missile's "seeker" and jam its IR tracking ability.

Variations on the IRCM and DIRCM systems continue to evolve the concept to protect aircraft under more and different circumstances while continually improving effectiveness. These variations on the basic IRCM / DIRCM design are all either fielded or in development for fielding by the US Army, US Navy, US Air Force, and US Marine Corps, as well as defense forces of over 24 US allies around the world.


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