Eli5 How does detection of an incoming missile on aircraft work?


Eli5 How does detection of an incoming missile on aircraft work?

In: Technology

Radar and other systems detect when the other plane is trying to “paint” you (ie find you).

And you cant outmaneuver a missile either, Hollywood is full of crap. Your best bets are countermeasures and a couple turns (at most), thats about it.

The target-finding radar of the missile or of the ground radar station guiding the missile can be detected (it‘s like listening to the noise of the missile engine, only at a different frequency „listening“ to the radar signals from the ground or the head of the missile). If the sensors detect these typical radar signals, they alert the crew.

There’s Primary Surveillance Radar (PSR) where the plane pings radar off of other aircraft in front of them. Missiles are too small and too fast moving to be reliably detected by this primary radar though and it’s used in a very narrow focus to avoid revealing the planes position to secondary radar systems.

Then there’s secondary radar using the Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) where you are detecting the active radar from the enemy plane or air defence system. This also detects missiles which have onboard radar lock. However if the enemy is deploying heat seeking missiles then RWR won’t pick those up. RWR typical has 360° coverage. So RWR picks up if there’s an aircraft or SAM battery using active radar in a general sweep, or an aircraft or SAM battery that has painted you with active radar or if a missile with active radar has locked onto you.

Then many but not all military planes have Missile Approach Warning System (MAWS) which use various systems to lookout specifically for missiles using either Pulse-Doppler radar, Infrared cameras or UV cameras.

^(edit: spelling)

You can detect:

A super fast thing coming to you way using Doppler radar. But the missile is tiny, this system really gonna cost money.

The missile engine is pretty hot, you can detect it with IR sensors, problem is that the missile is facing you, so the engine is shadowed, and the missile engine is actually on at launch, but can shut down due to lack of fuel at long range, and still be fast enough to hit you. So the above Doppler detection is better.

A radar lock missile by listening to its radar with a receiver, it’s costly but doable on large scale.

Laser aiming, by a sensor that senses you are illuminated by such laser (mostly used on helicopters and slow flying things) it’s pretty cheap.

The most difficult to detect are IR missiles, they do not emit anything. See point 1-2 to how to see them.