PAS19: Airbus conducted integration flight tests of Elbit Systems’ DIRCM-based self-protection suite onboard NATO MMF A330 MRTT

Luca Peruzzi

The NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) and the Organization for Joint Armament Co-operation (OCCAR), together with Airbus and Elbit Systems have successfully completed the integration and first series of flying tests of the self-protection suite based on J-MUSIC DIRCM (Direct Infra-Red Countermeasures) system against man-portable air-defence systems (MANPADS) onboard the A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft of the NATO Multinational Multi Role Tanker Transport Fleet (MMF), the industrial and agencies’ representatives said during a press conference at the Paris Air Show 2019.

The three-day long integration flight tests performed at the end of May at the Madrid-Getafe airfield were led by an Airbus team, supported by Elbit Systems engineers and monitored by representatives of the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) and the Organization for Joint Armament Co-operation (OCCAR).

Under a $46 million contract unveiled by Elbit Systems in December 2017 and to be performed over a four-year period, the Israeli company is integrating, certifying and supplying an undisclosed number of self-protection suites based on J-Music DIRCM system to NATO for its Airbus A330 MMF programme.

“The self-protection suite provided by Elbit Systems includes a set of company’s PAWS IR missile warning system’s five sensor heads and two J-MUSIC system turrets to provide an optimized coverage and simultaneous threats engagements around the platform. The total suite including systems, cabling, etc, adds a total weight of around 150-200 kg”, said Sasson Meshar, Elbit’s vice-president of airborne electro-optics and laser systems.

“During these flight tests the J-Music DIRCM system demonstrated flawless functionality and showed the ability to defeat multiple types of threat simulated at the A330 MRTT aircraft while conducting a series of flight maneuvers. The integration flight tests also established that the J-Music DIRCM system could handle simultaneous threat scenarios and overcome head-on, tail-on and side-on threats, from several ranges and at different altitudes”, told Elbit’s vice-president of airborne electro-optics and laser systems during the press conference.

“The Elbit Systems’ self-protection suite certification process on board the NATO’s A330 MRTT will be finalised by September 2019 and the complete fleet of aircraft will be equipped with our solution”, he added.

Elbit Systems’ DIRCM is designed as an open architecture system integrating the latest laser technology together with a high frame-rate thermal camera and a small, dynamic high-speed sealed-mirror turret, thus delivering high performance defence against Infra-Red missiles threat.

“The MMF programme is a clear example of nations recognising the need to generate modern defence capabilities in a cooperative, cost-efficient and effective way. The joint work done between NSPA and OCCAR elevates this international defence cooperation even further. Currently with five nations participating in this initiative, the successful integration of the Elbit J-Music self-protection system adds security and operational flexibility to the fleet, making it even more interesting for other nations to join this programme”, Peter Dohmen, General Manager, NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA), said during the conference.

“We are proud to take part in the MMF programme and to deliver the J-Music, a mature DIRCM system, to protect the entire fleet. I believe that the effective cooperation with our partners at NSPA, OCCAR and Airbus on the MMF programme will be a blueprint for additional projects”, Elad Aharonson, General Manager of Elbit Systems ISTAR Division, commented.

Photos by OCCAR and Luca Peruzzi