Kill vehicle

The US Patent and Trademark Office has granted a patent to Orbital ATK for its Helicopter Active Protection System (HAPS), which is meant to protect aircraft from airborne threats such as rocket-propelled grenades (RPG).

According to Orbital, the system safeguards helicopters and their crew members as they hover at low altitude, making them vulnerable to enemy attacks.

Kill vehicle, a key component in the HAPS, protects the helicopters by attacking the approaching threat.

"Our innovative design will fill a critical gap in technology, addressing a real problem."

The HAPS identifies an incoming threat, and launches and guides a kill vehicle to the warhead, all in a fraction of a second. The RPG is taken farther from the helicopter and detonated, to ensure that the fragments do not hit the aircraft or its crew.

In addition to the kill vehicle, the HAPS consists of an engagement management module, and a countermeasures dispense system.

Orbital has received the first patent for its active air protections systems following a live-fire demonstration of the kill vehicle in February at Socorro, New Mexico.

Launch from a fixed ALE-47 countermeasures dispense system, the kill vehicle demonstrated its ability to launch, perform pitch manoeuvers and fly to a detonation point that simulated the location of an RPG.

Capable of launching both from aerial and ground platforms, the kill vehicle uses the helicopter’s existing, fixed countermeasures dispense system to launch.

Orbital ATK Defense Systems Group defence electronic systems division vice-president Cary Ralston said: "Orbital ATK is dedicated to maturing the development of this first-of-a-kind active protection system for helicopters, and to put it into the hands of our armed forces.

"Using advanced technologies to help protect our armed forces is a key focus for our company and our innovative design will fill a critical gap in technology, addressing a real problem."

The system also serves as a last line of defence against advanced man-portable air-defence systems, or MANPADS.

Image: The kill vehicle is a key component of Orbital ATK’s Helicopter Active Protection System. Photo courtesy of Business Wire.