The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) has provided Aviation Week's Ares Defense Blog with exclusive video footage of a flight test held in March with one of its Boeing AH-64D Apache attack helicopters carrying Northrop Grumman's AN/AAQ-24(V) Dircm (directional infrared countermeasures) laser system. The amazing video is shot by a camera placed next to a ground-based missile simulator, provided by AAI Corporation-subsidiary ESL Defence Ltd. (based in England). This equipment stimulated the Amase (Apache modular aircraft survivability equipment) self-protection system on the helicopter (most of which can be seen in the pod in the photo) by emitting an ultraviolet pulse. That pulse was modulated to mimick the launch of a man-portable air-defense missile.
The video shows how the Dircm laser engages and effectively blinds the missile simulator -- and not just it, but the video camera as well! Make sure not to miss the surprised reaction of the operator. The sequence shows the Apache making a 360-degree hover turn during which the right-side Dircm turret hands off the target to the left-side turret. So at one instant, when the helo is pointing its tail towards the target, there are actually two lasers hitting the missile simultaneously, both firing aft. If you watch carefully, you can see this in the footage.
The flight trials were to validate that a Dircm-type active laser-based countermeasure can be integrated with the Amase system, developed by Danish company Terma A/S in partnership with the RNLAF and the Amsterdam-based National Aerospace Laboratory (NLR) The Dutch deem the addition of such a capability necessary because of the growing threat of man-portable air-defense systems faced by helicopters in operational theaters such as Afghanistan and Iraq, where multiple U.S. helos were shot down in recent months.
The upcoming issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology will carry the full story, providing the details of the test campaign and the procurement of a laser-based countermeasures system that is now being started by the Dutch.
--Joris Janssen Lok