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Infrared search and track (IRST) systems are used by the DoD’s fighter aircraft to enable them to passively search, detect, track, classify, and prioritize multiple airborne targets under multiple conditions.

These IRST conditions include:

  • Look-up
  • Look-down
  • Co-altitude

IRST systems are also designed to engage targets under these conditions at as long ranges as possible.

One of the big advantages of using infrared search and track systems over standard radar is IRST’s thermographic camera. This technology renders a passive state, meaning IRST systems do not give out any radiation of their own, unlike radar. This gives IRST the advantage that they are difficult to detect.

Experts in this area insist that infrared search and track technology promises enhances sensor suites for next-generation fighter aircraft, especially when it comes to spotting stealth aircraft without using radar. 

IRST systems are also exploring holographic sensing systems known as Multi-Aperture Infrared (MAIR). This differs from past systems in that it uses multiple IR cameras around a platform to aid detection and tracking of targets and threats, rather than just a single aperture as on traditional systems.

MAIR’s open system is based on optical heads fitted with infrared sensors: A feature offering significant benefits over the ultraviolet sensors-based systems currently on the market. In addition to immediate threat detection, MAIR can follow a threat throughout its entire trajectory, ensuring more effective countermeasures. This follows the principle that the sooner it sees something, the sooner it can react, and the greater the probability of neutralizing the threat.

MAIR is considered more dependable than the previous generation of IRST systems, thanks to its very low rate of false alarms, even in ‘noisy’ scenarios dense with clutter.

While IRST systems are most common amongst aircraft, land-based, ship and submarine systems are available.

Want to learn more? Tonex offers Infrared Search and Track (IRST) Fundamentals, a 2-day course that covers the key concepts and technologies behind infrared search and track (IRST) systems and sensors.

Infrared Search and Track (IRST) Fundamentals covers the foundation of infrared search and track (IRST) systems and sensors, theory of operations, modeling, simulation, performance evaluation, test procedures, and test result interpretations.

For more information, questions, comments, contact us.

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