Boasting a radar seeker and a laser, Bird Aerosystems’ SPREOS aircraft self-protection system was shown on the company’s stand for the first time during the Eurosatory exhibition being held in Paris between 11 June and 15 June.
The product builds on the firm’s experience in the aircraft self-protection domain, through the realisation of a Directional Infra-Red Countermeasure (DIRCM) which officials from the company told MONch provides a zero false-alarm rate. SPREOS is designed to work with an Infrared (IR) sensor which will detect the initial heat signature from the motor of an incoming IR-guided missile. SPREO’s pulse Doppler radar will then come into play confirming that the object detected by the IR sensor as an incoming missile. Once this confirmation takes place, the SPREOS’ laser is then slewed towards the missile’s seeker to blind the threat, and thus neutralise the danger to the aircraft. Company representatives told MONch that the operational feedback they had received from pilots flying in war-torn areas was that conventional DIRCMs could experience a high false alarm rate causing the unnecessary expenditure of flare decoys, thus increasing wear and tear on the aircraft’s self-protection systems, not to mention the financial cost of frequently ejecting flares during a mission. Anecdotal evidence shared with the author prior to the exhibition stated that countermeasures can be initiated by the reflection of the sun from window panes or car windscreens, for example. Moreover, the radar sensor allows the missile to be tracked throughout the engagement from the point of launch to the moment the laser is initiated so as to determine the effectiveness of the countermeasure in neutralising the threat. Another benefit of using a radar is that the SPREOS’ processing equipment can analyse the trajectory and behaviour of the missile to rapidly determine whether it is a threat, or whether the missile will fly harmlessly away from the aircraft, potentially avoiding the need to initiate the countermeasure. Officials continued that the radar “enables us to learn about the threat, its range, speed and radar cross section, and then calculate the time to impact.”
The architecture of SPREOS is designed in such a fashion as to allow it to be used in a standalone configuration onboard an aircraft, or be integrated into a larger pod-based aircraft self-protection system like Bird Aerosystems’ AMPS AeroShield Pod which can include chaff and flare countermeasures. Furthermore, aircraft which possess the company’s MACS Missile Approach Warning System (MAWS) can substitute this with SPREOS without having to modify their aircraft or the countermeasures housing. SPREOS is relatively benign in terms of aircraft loading, imposing a weight penalty of only 29 pounds (13 kilograms). Bird Aerosystems continues that SPREOS will cost around half the price of the typical DIRCMs that currently equip military and civilian aircraft. To date, the company has enjoyed significant success supplying its aircraft self-protection systems to military and civilian aircraft operators around the world. In particular, it has carved a niche in furnishing medium-lift utility helicopters supporting United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations in Mali, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo with self-protection equipment as per UN specifications for aircraft deployed to these theatres to support operations. Regarding development, company representatives stated that SPREOS is now entering its flight testing phase, and is expected to be declared operational by the end of the year.