This article first appeared in Aerospace Daily & Defense Report.
The Defense Department is kicking off a program to design, build and demonstrate prototypes of the Joint and Allied Threat Awareness System (JATAS) to protect U.S. Navy and Marine Corps helicopters and tiltrotor aircraft from dumb and smart weapons.
The two current competitors are Lockheed Martin and the team of Alliant Techsystems (ATK), BAE Systems and Goodrich. The teams were awarded two 16-month Navy contracts.
JATAS is to be the core of a system that can grow -- as technology and funding allow -- to detect and later retaliate against small arms fire and shoulder-fired rockets as well as surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles.
Digital integration among operational forces in the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force – after generations of talk, but little success – is showing surprisingly vibrant signs of life. A key concept behind JATAS is to better network the information that is collected by a growing package of advanced sensors.
Demand for the missile-detection capability is being accelerated by the heavy volume of automatic small arms fire often encountered in Afghanistan and by the availability on the black market of Russian-built SA-16 Gimlet, SA-18 Grouse and SA-24 Grinch man-portable, air defense missiles.
Because of that changing threat, JATAS has designed-in flexibility that offers a portal for eventual integration of electronic attack and warfare capabilities.
"We really need to work the whole [electro-magnetic] spectrum now, not just because of manpads [man-portable air defense systems]," said Burt Keirstead, BAE Systems' director of Navy programs for survivability solutions.
For the early phases of development, JATAS is to be compatible with the Army's self-defense sensor package -- the ALE-47 countermeasures (chaff and flares) dispensing system. In addition, those expendable countermeasures would be augmented with a device to disable the sensors of attacking guided missiles.
"As a requirement for the program, the Navy would like to evolve to a directable infrared countermeasure [DIRCM] -- a jammer -- which is part of the JATAS interface requirement," Keirstead said. The Army already uses the advanced threat infrared countermeasures (ATIRCM) jamming laser.
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