Edinburgh aerospace firm helps protect military air crews from missile attacks

Missile threat: Mark SteadMissile threat: Mark Stead
Missile threat: Mark Stead
Aerospace engineering company Leonardo based at Crewe Toll in Edinburgh has delivered a set of high-tech laser-based countermeasures to protect the Royal Air Force’s fleet of Shadow special mission aircraft from heat-seeking missile attack.

Leonardo’s Edinburgh site lead Mark Stead said that despite restrictions placed on the workforce due to Covid-19, the company had completed deliveries of the life-saving equipment to the MoD ahead of schedule.

One of the greatest threats to our military aircraft is that posed by portable, shoulder-launched heat-seeking missiles. These are inexpensive and readily available and have been used lethally during the last 40 years by insurgents and terrorist organisations. Most worryingly, the missiles have become increasingly resistant to standard countermeasures such as decoy flares. The most effective defence from these missiles is to directly attack them with a high power laser such as that used by Leonardo’s Miysis Directed InfraRed CounterMeasure (DIRCM), which can point a laser with pin-point accuracy onto an incoming missile.

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Stead explained: “We are now allowed by the MoD to reveal that the delivery of all Miysis systems for the Shadow were handed over ahead of schedule. What makes Miysis somewhat unique amongst its peers is that it is small enough to be carried by the smallest of helicopters, and yet puts out enough laser energy to protect the heat signature of even a large jet transport aircraft.

Experts: DIRCM Team at Leonardo’s site at Crewe Toll in EdinburghExperts: DIRCM Team at Leonardo’s site at Crewe Toll in Edinburgh
Experts: DIRCM Team at Leonardo’s site at Crewe Toll in Edinburgh

"There is a fundamental need to defeat the latest shoulder-launched infra-red guided threats, delivering as much laser energy as quickly as possible onto the rapidly manoeuvring seeker head of the incoming missile, while the aircrew take evasive action in just a few life-or-death seconds of time.”

The RAF’s Shadow R1 aircraft is a modified Beechcraft King Air 350CER equipped with a whole range of sensors enabling it to conduct tactical intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance missions. The aircraft is expected to be ready for service in 2022.

“The world is changing rapidly and we’re working hard to make sure that the technology we’re researching, developing and manufacturing in Edinburgh stays a step ahead of the threats facing our Armed Forces. I’m proud that our Leonardo Miysis DIRCM provides the highest-possible level of protection for the Royal Air Force and our customers around the world.” said Stead.

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