Getting More Value from Patriots: Israel’s Sniper EO Add-on
As David explains, many surface-air missiles cannot take advantage of their range right now, because rules of engagement will not allow them to be fired without positive identification. IFF (Identification, Friend or Foe) technology is supposed to provide that, but it is not 100% reliable. This has led to “blue on blue” kills in the past, including the destruction of an RAF Tornado in 2003 by a US Patriot battery over Kuwait. A USAF F-16CJ “Wild Weasel” pilot reportedly escaped the same fate during OIF 2003, by firing a HARM anti-radar missile into a Patriot missile battery that had locked on to his aircraft.
Fighter aircraft have the same problems with beyond visual range air-air missiles (BVRAAMs), and this need for improved identification has been one factor leading to the growing use of long-range IRST electro-optical devices on fighter jets. With those systems in place, on-board missiles can be used at longer ranges, and there are even some benefits with respect to aircraft that depend on radar stealth. The other advantage IRST brings is the ability to find and begin tracking targets without creating radar emissions that can be tracked in return – and this advantage also applies to the ground-based “Patriot + Sniper” electro-optical enhancement.