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Updated: September 3, 2010 17:20 IST

Laser based missile defence for helicopters on the anvil

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Soldiers rappel down a South Korean army helicopter. File photo
AP Soldiers rappel down a South Korean army helicopter. File photo

A new laser technology being developed at the University of Michigan and Omni Sciences, Inc. will protect helicopters in combat from enemy missiles.

“Our lasers give off a signal that’s like throwing sand in the eyes of the missile,” said Mohammed Islam.

These sturdy and portable “mid-infrared supercontinuum lasers” are being made using economical and off-the-shelf telecommunications fibre optics and could blind heat-seeking weapons from a distance of 1.8 miles away.

The robust, simple design can withstand shaky helicopter flight and their mid-infrared supercontinuum mode can effectively jam missile sensors.

They also give off a focused beam packed with light from a much broader range of wavelengths. And they are the first to operate in longer infrared wavelengths that humans can’t see, but can feel as heat. Heat-seeking missiles are designed to home in on the infrared radiation that the helicopter engine emits.

Because this new laser emits such a broad spectrum of infrared light, it can effectively mimic the engine’s electromagnetic signature and confuse any incoming weapons, Mr. Islam said.

“We’ve used good, old-fashioned stuff from your telephone network to build a laser that has no moving parts,” therefore being especially well suited for helicopters, Mr. Islam said.

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