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Research improves chance of survival in a helicopter under attack

A helicopter threatened by hostile missiles or machine gun fire must instantly choose the right tactics and countermeasures. FOI has therefore created a simulator which makes it possible to compute how best to avoid being hit. The inspiration for this has been drawn from the world of gaming.

A helicopter flying in a combat zone runs severe risks. Partly because the relatively slow aircraft is an ideal target for missiles and partly because it runs the risk of being damaged or destroyed by gunfire from small arms or heavier automatic weapons during take-off and landing. But there are a number of tactics and countermeasures that can be used to defend oneself. Flares that decoy heat-seeking missiles is one. But it is also about how one flies the aircraft.

“If one flies sufficiently high, then missiles and gunfire cannot reach the aircraft. But one can also fly so low that one is shielded by trees and high ground,” explains Lars Tydén, a Deputy Research Director at FOI. But in order to know how best to avoid coming under fire and, in the worst case, being hit, a number of important choices have to be made depending on the circumstances. FOI scientists have therefore created a simulator which makes it possible to determine, prior to each mission, how to minimise the risk of coming under fire when operating over a particular type of terrain. In addition the simulator can also visualise how, in a given situation, one can best defend oneself against missiles using the infrared flare dispensing system fitted in the Swedish Armed Forces’ helicopters.

“Using the knowledge gained from the simulations, one can then produce a tactical flight profile before each mission which gives pilots and aircrew the best prospect of avoiding being shot down,” says Lars Tydén. Lars Tydén explains that the techniques for this simulation had already existed but did not work properly. But recent advances have now meant that the technique can be used, for example, to support the Swedish Armed Forces in the evaluation of the Black Hawk helicopter. 

“This is due to the establishment of a number of standards which means, among other things, that we can use open-source codes for different types of visualisation, the same type of source code that is used in the gaming industry. From there we have also borrowed ideas about how to build up and visualise duels in war games but with the difference that FOI’s simulator shows what actually happens in reality. The helicopter pilots in the Swedish Armed Forces believe that this new way of visualising the threat gives them a better opportunity to be prepared for what they may encounter on hazardous missions,” says Lars Tydén. 

Read more about electronic warfare

FOI, Swedish Defence Research Agency

Swedish Defence Research Agency
SE-164 90 Stockholm

Phone +46 8 555 030 00
Fax +46 8 555 031 00

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