IAF mulls missile defense system for helicopters

Proposal comes in face of growing surface-to-air missile threat against IAF aircraft from the Gaza Strip and Lebanon.

IAF Yasour 311 (photo credit: Courtesy: IDF)
IAF Yasour 311
(photo credit: Courtesy: IDF)
The air force is looking into installing an active protection system aboard its helicopters that would intercept enemy missiles, similar to a system recently proven in combat on IDF tanks.
The proposal comes in face of the growing surface-to-air missile threat against IAF aircraft from the Gaza Strip and Lebanon.
The requirement for such a system was recently issued by the IAF’s Helicopter Air Directorate in light of the success of the Trophy active protection system developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, which intercepted a rocket-propelled grenade fired at a Merkava Mk 4 tank deployed along the border with the Gaza Strip in March.
The Trophy system, which weighs 800 kg, would not be appropriate for helicopters since it fires off a cloud of countermeasures that could damage the aircraft’s rotor. The Trophy consists of radar that detects threats and activates one of two launchers, which discharges a cloud of “hard-kill” countermeasures that physically attack incoming threats.
“We are looking into a hard-kill system for helicopters that would work like Trophy,” a senior IAF officer said. “It is still under review and consideration.”
In 2007, the air force embarked on a major upgrade program for its Sikorsky CH-53 transport helicopters – called Yasour – which included the installation of electronic (soft-kill) warfare systems to divert missiles. During the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Hezbollah shot down a Yasour in Lebanon, killing all of its crew.
In recent years, the IAF has changed the way it flies over the Gaza Strip and southern Lebanon due to intelligence reports that both Hamas and Hezbollah have obtained a significant number of shoulder-to-air missiles.
Hamas, for example, is believed to have obtained Russian- made SA-7 shoulder-fired missiles from Iran. The air force believes that Hezbollah has also obtained a large quantity of shoulder-to-air missiles, and is concerned by reports that it might also have received the SA-8, a Russian tactical mobile truck-mounted surface-to-air missile system reported to have a range of 30 km.