by Guy Martin
Today's "smart" antiaircraft munitions are sort of like the Hounds of Hell disguised as rockets: Once their nose-mounted infrared seekers lock on to the heat signature of the engine exhaust, it's damn near impossible to throw them off.
Used to be, pilots would drop ultra-hot flares that would (occasionally) confuse the seekers. In the last decade, we developed the battlefield tech to track and blind the missile's infrared eye--in the few seconds of flight that the missile has to the jet--by zapping it with an extremely powerful laser. A ray gun, basically.
Cool, no? It gets cooler:
A sleek new iteration of the ray gun is now being tested under a $102 million R&D program sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security. The new wrinkle here is that the technology was developed for--and is being tested on--passenger liners, specifically, on three American Airlines Boeing 767s that ply the route between JFK and LAX.
The system, called JETEYE, was conceived and manufactured by the Electronic Warfare Division of Nashua, New Hampshire's BAE Systems, a defense contractor that supplies the Army and the Air Force with similar technologies for the battlefield.
As its battlefield cousins do, JETEYE senses the incoming missile's infrared tracking signal (with which the missile paints its target) and pulses a super-intense beam of light into the missile's reticle, or eye, scrambling its brains. Result: one really drunk missile.