An Alpha Defense Exclusive
The stealthy eye in the sky for the next generation stealth fighter of India is now in advance stages of development.Tweet
– By Aman Routray and Subodh Sharma
Conventionally detection and tracking has always been a Radio Frequency (RF) based operation. The RADAR can be called as “Eyes and Ears” of a fighter jet, that allows it to detect, locate and target another aircraft. The evolving threats and countermeasures has necessitated the need to explore other options. The next generation warfare is more about “Stealth”, which is not just limited to body reflection of aircraft but also the emission from the sensors like RADAR. The RADAR radiation is a big giveaway with increasingly sensitive Electronic Support Measures (ESM) systems like Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) and Missile Approach Warning System (MAWS). While MAWS largely depend on visual and IR signature, the RWR use RF emission to detects the enemies in the sky.
The passive sensors are back in the game with the increasing need of detecting enemy without getting detected. The current generation of planes use Infra-Red Search and Track (IRST) as a passive sensor to detect and track the enemy aircraft using the Infra-Red spectrum. Although these sensors are passive but they have increased drag penalty and of course a larger Radar cross-section. One of the most innovative approach that was used in F35 Lightening II was use of IRST and Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) together as Electro-Optical Targeting System EOTS. The EOTS is a perfect solution for a fifth generation fighter jet like F35 lightening II. The solution will also find a version of it on Indian next generation fighter aircraft Advance Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).
The premier lab of Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) which deals with the electrooptical sensor, Instrument Research and Development Establishment (IRDE) is working with two private sector startups to realise two prototype units of these sensors for the testing, validation and certification. The design of the system will be supplied by IRDE and these two private sector companies will fabricate the prototypes for the testing.
The IRDE EOTS will have five sensors packed in a single, compact housing. Following are the sensors :
- Thermal Imager,
- CCD Camera,
- Eye-safe Laser Range Finder,
- Laser Illuminators, and
- Beam Generator
These five sensors together will allow AMCA to detect, track and target enemy without using the RADAR. The EOTS will also allow the aircraft to perform the air to ground missions, reconnaissance and surveillance missions.
The EOTS will also be integrated with the external systems like RADAR and Electro-Optical Distributed Aperture System (EO-DAS). This sensor fusion will make the AMCA more situationally aware and thus more effective.
The shortlisted private sector companies were provided design and some hardware from IRDE. The available information suggest, the hardware supplied by IRDE includes the Beam generator and Illuminator. The startups will be responsible for larger share in the work as listed below :
- Embedded Software for EOTS
- EO Sensors (Thermal Imager, ELRF & Day TV)
- EO Sensor Interface
- MFD (Multi-Functional Display) based MMI (Man Machine Interface)
- Qualification and Performance Evaluation of EOTS
- Support during Integration and trials
The two private sector start up companies are Hyderabad based Motion Dynamics and Bangalore based Ben Egg. The companies will supply one prototype each, in another 12 months. The prototypes will be tested and based on the bids from these companies one with the least quote will eventually manufacture and supply the system for the AMCA assembly.