A current aircraft gadget will help protect fighter jets from incoming heat-seeking missiles, by blinding the trailing weapon with a high-powered infrared beam.
The device, about the size of a ps2 console, uses lasers to send out pulses of infrared light. It creates a gigantic heat mask, which interferes with the heat-sensor on the missile. This distracts the weapon and hides the aircraft’s primary heat sources (engine and exhaust)
The aircraft then has to perform midair maneuvers to escape the predatory weapon’s grasp. Normally, aircraft use more traditional lasers, which only operate on a single wavelength. If the infrared radiation countermeasure isn’t on the same wavelength as the incoming missile, it will have the opposite effect, increasing the aircraft’s heat signature, rather than masking it. The military has to rely on gathered intelligence to choose the most effective countermeasure.
The new laser is small and durable enough to fit on the outside of most fighter aircraft. It will likely be rolled out in 2011, once the size has been reduced even further and the laser made up to four times more powerful. Helicopters are planned to be the first to get it, with fighter jets coming later.
Will this spell the end for heat-seeking missile? Probably not, as heat-seeking missiles are one of the most effective anti-air option for defense or assault. As mentioned earlier, intelligence is vital for the IRCM to succeed.
Knowing the enemy's missile wavelength is paramount for the IRCM to save the lives of the fighter jet pilots.