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Missile Approach Warning

The Infrared vs Ultraviolet Debate

Geoff van Hees


10 March 2014
EW Asia 2014, The Prince Hotel, Kuala Lumpur
What is a Missile Approach Warning
Sensor?
Purpose: To detect IR-guided missiles that pose
a threat to the platform
Two approaches
• Active detection – uses RF energy to illuminate
environment and detect incoming threats.
• Passive/Optical detection – relies on the signals
emitted from the threat, typically from the missile motor
plume.
Two classes of passive detectors
• Ultraviolet
• Infrared

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Requirements for Optical Missile
Detection
Field of view
• Cover 360° in azimuth.
• Min 90° (preferably 180°) in elevation.
Number of Line Replaceable units, LRUs
• 4 to 6 sensors for spherical coverage.
Frame rate
• Frame rate of at least 10ms.
Dwell time
• The higher the scan rate the shorter the dwell time
• Need staring arrays.

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Requirements for Optical Missile
Detection
Distance Estimation
• Needed for optimal counter-measure deployment.
• Passive systems provide an estimate of distance and
time to impact, at best.
All-weather operation
• Rain, fog, condensation and icing should not
significantly affect the operation of the sensors.

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IR vs UV
Wavelength Choice
IR – Two traditional Wavelengths
• 3-5µ Band
• CO2 absorption limits useful bandwidth.
• 8-12µ Band
• Number of problems.
• Wavelength related pixel size requires large detector
arrays and optics of impractically large size.
• High false alarm rate.
UV – Solar blind
• Technical challenge to create.
• Circumvents limiting factors of IR.
• Low false alarm rate from background radiation.

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IR vs UV
Pixel Resolution
IR – Needs High Resolution detector
• Cluttered background – Surface to Air scenario.
• Clutter rejection is a major issue, increases
exponentially in day light due to solar illumination.
• Possible with significant amounts of processing and
tracking.
UV – Low resolution detector sufficient
• Solar Blind system – no background radiation or
reflections.
• Source below the ozone layer can be detected using a
low resolution detector.

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IR vs UV
Detection and Tracking
IR – Can track missile after motor burn-out
• Possible for air to air.
• Surface to air – Low seeker head heat, background
radiation. Dense, low-altitude atmosphere.
UV – Rocket motor must be burning
• Track initiated as soon as any energy is detected.

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IR vs UV
Spectral Discrimination
IR – Two/Multi-Colour detection
• Needed to assist with suppression of background
clutter.
• Measuring in two colours doubles the pixel count
needed.
• Target smaller that 1 pixel, revert back to high-
resolution with its attendant technical challenges
UV – Single-colour detection
• Few sources hot enough to radiate significant amounts
of short-wavelength – does include the threat to be
detected.

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IR vs UV
Optical Implications
IR – Physically large detectors to accommodate
required pixel array
• Low optical image – pixel image blurred – reduced
sensitivity and scene resolution.
• IR optical materials are expensive and fragile.
• Difficult to protect exposed large-aperture, wide-angle
optics mounted outside of an aircraft in an operational
environment.
UV – Extremely robust
• Optics made mostly from fused silica (quartz).
• Low resolution – simple manufacturing process.
• Not necessary for high resolution across the FOV.

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IR vs UV
Cooling
IR – Cooled
• Need to reduce detector noise.
• Uncooled – less sensitive.
• Cooling – mechanical refrigeration or thermo-electrical.
• Increases power consumption, weight, complexity and
life-cycle costs.
• Decreases system reliability.
UV- Uncooled
• No cooling needed.
• Thermal noise does not approach the high energy of
the UV photons that are detected.

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IR vs UV
Data Rates
IR – WOW!
• Assumption – Large area IR detector that can read out
the required frame rate and the resultant data rates can
be computed.
• Readout of four 2-colour 16000 x 16000 pixel detectors
at 100Hz and 12 bits per pixel – 2.4 trillion bits per
second – Not currently practical for a cost-effective
airborne or mobile application.
UV – No WOW factor
• Effective data rate of a UV system is at least 5 orders
of magnitude lower than an IR system.
• Lower spatial resolution, bit depth and single colour
spectral resolution.

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IR vs UV
Comparison
IR Band
• Physical constraints – You can’t argue with physics.
• All weather operation not practical.
• Solar radiation saturates and blinds sensors– impacts
POW.
• High cost and complexity vs reduced reliability and
performance.
UV Band
• Solar blind phenomenon removes need for high
detector resolution and large dynamic range.
• All weather capability – not affected by water or
moisture in the atmosphere.
• Significantly cheaper and more durable.
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Conclusion

IR technology delivers excellent results when its


strengths are correctly exploited, it is not suitable
as a missile warning application against surface
launched missiles in the real world, all-weather
scenario.
Has advantages over UV in the air to air
scenario based on ability for longer detection
range and ability to track a missile after the
motor has burnt out.

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