Why Does the U.S. Navy Want to Shoot Missiles at Its Own Pilots?
Fake missiles could teach pilots to avoid real ones
Shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles are an insurgent’s best friend and a pilot’s worst enemy. They pack small warheads and short range, but an insurgent can crawl up to the edge of an airfield and shoot down a jet during its vulnerable takeoff and landing phases.
The Navy wants to train Navy and Marine Corps pilots to avoid these weapons the most logical way, by shooting real—but harmless—missiles at them. The Navy is asking the defense industry if it can build a “missile surrogate.” The fake Man-Portable Air Defense System would test aircraft missile warning systems as well as train pilots in evasive action.
“The MANPADS missile surrogate shall have a missile body with a rocket motor that replicates the ultraviolet and infrared signatures of specific threat MANPADS during their launch and fly-out, including eject, boost and sustain phases,” the Navy announced.
In fact, the surrogate should be identical to a real shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, with one key exception. “The missile can be fired safely within two to three kilometers of a manned aircraft and not reach the aircraft,” according to the Navy.
The missile body would be recoverable after each mission, so only the rocket motors would need to be replaced.
It sounds like a brilliant concept. But if it does work out, the Navy had better hope that accidents don’t happen. U.S. warplanes have been known to shoot each other down during training. If the Navy has to explain to Congress why a fake anti-aircraft missile shot down a real American jet fighter, you can say goodbye to this idea.