Last update: 18-Oct-2006 18:28 NATO Update

10 Oct. 2006


New technology to protect helicopters

Defence Against Terrorism programme

NATO countries moved a step closer to providing their helicopters with added protection from rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) with the successful demonstration of prototype technology in Bulgaria.

Results of the demonstration, held on 10 October, indicate about 80% probability of protection.

Participants saw that only one in nine shots exploded,” said Bulgaria’s National Armaments Director, Colonel Nikolay Yankov, “This is a dramatic improvement from last year’s testing.

The technology, described as “passive”, is designed to be strapped onto helicopters. It prevents rocket-propelled grenades from exploding, thereby improving levels of safety for passengers, crews, and aircraft, from ground-based RPG attacks.

Collaborative effort

The development of the technology was a collaborative effort undertaken over two years between the Bulgarian Ministry of Defence and the Bulgarian Academy of Science.

It is part of NATO’s Defence Against Terrorism programme, under which NATO  countries lead programmes to develop cutting-edge technologies that address today’s most pressing terrorism-related security needs.

"Rocket-propelled grenades are extremely dangerous threats to helicopters when they are taking-off, hovering, low-flying or landing,” noted Lieutenant Colonel Krassi Kouzmanov, from NATO’s Defence Investment Division, who observed the trial. “This technology will help diminish that threat.

More testing must be conducted before the technology can be considered viable for use by NATO forces.

Next stage

The next stage is to demonstrate practical application by fitting the technology to a helicopter. In this way, the RPG debris impact and the influence of different weights and shapes can be measured.

Alternative measures, so called “active” protection, are also being examined. These could include early detection of threats by radar or the destruction of grenades while they are in flight.

Bulgaria is the lead country in the development of helicopter protection technology, while Greece and Poland are also involved. Poland is currently conducting a parallel programme of testing.