A threat to commercial and military aircraft posed by surface-to-air and more recently, air-to-air missiles is being addressed by a collaborative effort between the Arnold Engineering Development Complex and Active Signal Technologies, Inc., on a Small Business Innovative Research project on a programmable pyrophoric fuel and valve system.
The objective of the SBIR project is to refine surface-to-air and air-to-air missile plume simulation with the new system to improve the capabilities of Towed Airborne Plume Simulators (TAPS) to ensure airborne sensors will have the ability to detect and mitigate those threats.
Plume is the missile’s exhaust.
“TAPS has been used in the past for Large Aircraft Infrared Counter-Measure (LAIRCIM) system tests [at AEDC], “said Dr. Taylor Swanson, AEDC’s space and missiles technology program manager. “We have conducted tests on the ground in our RPA4 facility where we have the high speed fan and also in flight tests out of Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla.”
Swanson said, “We have a very good ability to simulate the threat that we want to, namely, surface-to-air missiles. However, there are other, newer surface-to-air missiles and air-to-air missiles. In order to make TAPS a better test asset with more realistic threat representation, there are certain things we would like to do to the plume, which we refer to as the missile’s signature.”
The new pyrophoric fuel valve system, if proven effective, would become an additional test capability at AEDC.
Pyrophoric fuel is comprised of fuels that ignite when exposed to oxygen.
“This is a more representative plume that simulates the infrared signature of a man-portable air defense system, a shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile weapon,” Swanson said. “The overall intensity of the TAPS-generated plume throughout the ‘missile’s trajectory,’ from launch to target acquisition, is controlled by varying the flow rate of the fuel.
“If this new pyrophoric fuel valve allows us to modulate that plume signature over a wider dynamic range – we could go brighter or we could go dimmer and we can modulate that very quickly, what we term frequency content – if this new valve works as planned, TAPS would then be an even more useful test asset.”