Military Tech » Flares

How do fighter jets cheat surface to air missiles? A 10 second game

Surface to Air heat seeking missiles follow heat signatures shortly after launch. It locks the heat source (engine exhaust) from the aircraft and follows it irrespective of aircraft speed, attitude and maneuver.

Flares are used to mislead the missile. Once activated, it deploys a ‘wall’ of flares with greater temperature than exhaust heat. Self-protection flares are magnesium pellets that, when ignited, burn for a short period of time (less than 10 seconds) at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

There are two types of flares, pyrotechnic and pyrophoric. The pyrotechnic flares produce infrared energy and are highly visible white light and smoke. However they can start fires if they land on the ground before they have burned out. The pyrophoric flares are much less visible since they are small pieces of foil that oxidize (rust) very quickly, producing heat, and then cool in the atmosphere as they fall to the ground as rusted metal debris.

Today, countermeasures dispenser system, are capable of deploying chaff, flares, active radio frequency decoys, from military aircraft. Since heat from flares last only 10 seconds, deploying and evading a missile is like playing a high tech game for pilots.