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posted by LaminatorX on Wednesday March 05 2014, @11:00AM   Printer-friendly
from the throw-me-a-bone-here dept.

AnonTechie writes:

First Stop: Skyshield ... Next Stop: Skynet"

From an article in Wired:

Israel is finally ready to combat shoulder-launched missiles and they're going to do it with lasers. Israel's Ministry of Defense announced Wednesday that SkyShield, developed by Israeli defense contractor Elbit Systems, had successfully completed testing and is certified for commercial use to combat the threat of man-portable surface-to-air missile systems (MANPADS) by combining advanced laser detection and disruption technologies.

 
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  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Barrabas on Wednesday March 05 2014, @01:35PM

    by Barrabas (22) on Wednesday March 05 2014, @01:35PM (#11312) Journal

    I worked for Elbit making aircraft instruments and was generally familiar with other projects.

    I concur with the other posters here: this is expensive, burdensome, and useless.

    People have pointed out that you only need a more expensive missile, but an even simpler solution is to fire *two* missiles at once. Can the laser system handle both?

    This assumes that the system works perfectly, or at least works at all. Knowing a little bit about the difficulties in locking on and tracking a high-speed moving object from a high-speed moving object that's vibrating (ever ridden in an airplane?), with variations in visible moisture/fog/clouds (ever landed in light fog?) and that may or may not be susceptible to counter-measures (reflective paint), I'm skeptical that the kill percentage is even 10%.

    According to Wikipedia, MANPADs [wikipedia.org] have a range of about 4 miles (varies by type), with a speed of 1200 feet/sec or faster (varies by type). The Aircraft downwind/crosswind/final approach is done at 1000 feet above ground level, so there is a *huge* area where the system has less than 1 second to detect, track, lock on, and fire. Half that for more modern missiles. I'm doubtful that the system can muster this much speed and accuracy.

    (If the IR camera is the one I'm familiar with, it's running at about 30 Hz frame rate and has limited view angle. It would *appear* from the image in the article that it won't see shots coming from the side or underneath.)

    As a for instance, just off of the top of my head, consider Boston Logan Airport traffic pattern [google.com]. A large portion is thickly settled, much of it is factory/docks/industrial, and a lot of it is over water (think: boat). How easy would it be to hide somewhere along the final approach path, and get a 1/2 second (modern high-speed missile) flight?

    This is what is called an "expense account scam". It's purpose is to funnel money to business, not to have any real effect. It actually makes us *less* safe, because the money could be better spent more effectively in other areas such as intelligence gathering.

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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Barrabas on Wednesday March 05 2014, @01:51PM

    by Barrabas (22) on Wednesday March 05 2014, @01:51PM (#11319) Journal

    I'm aware that the laser doesn't "kill" the missile, just blinds it or leads it away to detonate harmlessly. I use terms like "fire" and "kill" indiscriminately.

    The IR camera sees heat radiation so I wonder how it distinguishes a missile from, for example, the apparent track of a bonfire on the camera as the plane moves.

    I wonder if the system has a false-positives, and I wonder if the pilots are informed when the system detects a track.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by JeanCroix on Wednesday March 05 2014, @02:25PM

      by JeanCroix (573) on Wednesday March 05 2014, @02:25PM (#11332)

      The IR camera sees heat radiation so I wonder how it distinguishes a missile from, for example, the apparent track of a bonfire on the camera as the plane moves.

      The initial lock-on generally prevents that kind of extraneous targeting. But that principal is exactly what's being exploited by the use of flares as IR countermeasures. Which leads to the question - if defending commercial aircraft from MANPADs is such a pressing issue, why aren't they all equipped with flares already?

      • (Score: 1) by emg on Wednesday March 05 2014, @02:47PM

        by emg (3464) on Wednesday March 05 2014, @02:47PM (#11341)

        As I understand it, you're not allowed to put flare launchers on commercial aircraft.

        I guess no-one banned lasers :).

        • (Score: 2) by JeanCroix on Wednesday March 05 2014, @03:40PM

          by JeanCroix (573) on Wednesday March 05 2014, @03:40PM (#11363)
          Well, sure. Which tells me the MANPAD threat isn't very high. Or at least, the threat of stray or malfunctioning flare systems is greater than the threat of MANPADs. But then again, this is Israel we're talking about, who take a whole different approach to threats and countermeasures out of necessity.
          • (Score: 2, Interesting) by emg on Wednesday March 05 2014, @04:32PM

            by emg (3464) on Wednesday March 05 2014, @04:32PM (#11386)

            It wasn't high, but with reports of thousands of them disappearing from Libya, I suspect the risk is a lot higher today than it was five years ago. Particularly for Israel.

        • (Score: 2) by nukkel on Wednesday March 05 2014, @05:38PM

          by nukkel (168) on Wednesday March 05 2014, @05:38PM (#11411)

          Actually, El Al does: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_Guard [wikipedia.org]

        • (Score: 2) by EvilJim on Wednesday March 05 2014, @09:16PM

          by EvilJim (2501) on Wednesday March 05 2014, @09:16PM (#11523) Journal

          you're only allowed to attach lasers to a plane if there is a shark attached also. anyway, I thought MANPADs were for anal bleeds?

  • (Score: 1) by emg on Wednesday March 05 2014, @03:17PM

    by emg (3464) on Wednesday March 05 2014, @03:17PM (#11355)

    "it won't see shots coming from the side or underneath"

    Are there any MANPADs today that can reliably engage jets from anywhere other than the rear? I haven't been keeping up with the technology, but always seemed in the past that they had to be behind the plane to lock on reliably.

    • (Score: 1) by akinliat on Wednesday March 05 2014, @05:09PM

      by akinliat (1898) <akinliatNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday March 05 2014, @05:09PM (#11400)

      AFAIK, Stingers, at least, have always had all-aspect capability. I'd guess that the later-generation Russian and Chinese MANPADS do as well. Given their primary military use (defense against low-level air attack), they'd almost have to. Not much point in shooting an aircraft after the attack run.

      • (Score: 1) by emg on Wednesday March 05 2014, @06:46PM

        by emg (3464) on Wednesday March 05 2014, @06:46PM (#11453)

        "Not much point in shooting an aircraft after the attack run."

        Though you're not necessarily the one the aircraft is attacking. If I remember correctly, in the Falklands the planes attacking ships after the landing were often engaged by MANPADS from the ground nearby as well as the fixed anti-aircraft missile installations.

        But, yeah, looks like you're right, Wikipedia doesn't say about the Stinger, but claims the Soviet equivalent could attack from the front 'under favourable circumstances' since the early 80s.

        • (Score: 1) by akinliat on Thursday March 06 2014, @09:16PM

          by akinliat (1898) <akinliatNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday March 06 2014, @09:16PM (#12214)

          You know, I actually thought about this, and I'm not the only one. I suppose, in situations where no other form of air defense was available, then you might actually try to use a large-scale deployment of these as a (pretty kludgy) area defense option. The US Marine Corps actually has what it calls LAAD (Low-Altitude Air Defense) Battalions that seem to be for just this purpose. In that role, a rear-aspect only variant might be viable.

          Given how marginal these things are even for point defense, though, I have a hard time imagining them as all that effective in the area defense role, at least against jets. They could be quite effective against helicopters.

          I'm not surprised that they played a role in the Falklands -- the whole war was such a donkey derby, on both sides, that I'd believe almost anything about it. To me though, what that says is just how badly the Royal Navy fell down on the job. Air defense was supposed to primarily be the RN's responsibility, but when they arrived in-theater, they discovered that their primary air-defense system (Sea Dart) didn't worked as advertised -- when they could get it to work at all.

  • (Score: 1) by marcello_dl on Wednesday March 05 2014, @06:01PM

    by marcello_dl (2685) on Wednesday March 05 2014, @06:01PM (#11422)

    Indeed, I wonder what is the damage that a newfangled 50cal rifle, which I guess would not be much affected by laser jamming, would do to the light aircraft body.

    The more I think about it, the more the idea of taking down airplanes by putting people with explosives inside seem ridiculous, unless the suicides have a peculiar significance like some say [wikipedia.org]

    • (Score: 1) by egcagrac0 on Wednesday March 05 2014, @08:16PM

      by egcagrac0 (2705) on Wednesday March 05 2014, @08:16PM (#11496)

      I'm no expert, but I think that hitting an engine would be "bad"... but a tricky shot to make. FAA FOD standards [wikipedia.org] seem to suggest that taking out the engine wouldn't take out the aircraft (although a 50cal round isn't a chicken).

      Putting a half-inch hole in the fuel tank would be a significant annoyance, but I don't think it will take out the aircraft, just prompt an earlier-than-scheduled landing.

      Striking the fuselage wouldn't be good, but the aircraft is likely low enough that depressurization would be catastrophic. The projectile might strike a few passengers - again bad, but not so bad as taking out the whole plane full of passengers.

      • (Score: 1) by egcagrac0 on Wednesday March 05 2014, @09:32PM

        by egcagrac0 (2705) on Wednesday March 05 2014, @09:32PM (#11530)

        Argh, that should be "depressurization would not be catastrophic.

  • (Score: 2) by Phoenix666 on Wednesday March 05 2014, @11:05PM

    by Phoenix666 (552) on Wednesday March 05 2014, @11:05PM (#11577) Journal

    This is why I love this community, be it here or at the other site. When something occurs, there is almost always someone knowledgeable involved who can give informed perspective. I wouldn't miss this for the world. It's why, when the dust has settled and the community has decided what funding model it's comfortable with, I will support it. Cthulhu loathe you, geeks of the world!

    --
    Washington DC delenda est.