The ALE-50 Towed Decoy system, also known as “little Buddy,” is a state-of-the-art defense system designed by Raytheon. The main objective of the system is to create an effective countermeasure to defend American aircraft against radar-directed missiles. This anti-missile countermeasure decoy system is currently used for different U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps aircraft, in addition to some other air forces.
The system has been used in various combats, where the ALE-50 Towed Decoy System successfully demonstrated its effectiveness in thwarting enemy missile attacks. Thus, there is now very little skepticism about what the “Little Buddy” can do.
Development of the ALE-50 Towed Decoy System
The ALE-50 Towed Decoy System is the fruit of collaboration of an integrated product team containing experts from Raytheon, the U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Navy. The team worked on this groundbreaking concept at a Goleta, California facility.
The first deployment of the system dates back to 1995. Nonetheless, the system is currently used on multiple aircraft that include the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the B-1B Lancer. Further, The system has also been incorporated into the innovative ALQ-184(V)9 ECM pod. This integration has helped the system become more vigilant towards threats, and it has also enabled it to be ready to be used on numerous platforms.
If the ALE-50 Towed Decoy System has been in service for more than ten years, now, it’s because it has efficaciously demonstrated its wide range of capabilities. When employed, the system shields the aircraft and crew against guided missiles (surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles). The system lures the missile toward a more attractive target and away from the intended one. The decoy that the system utilizes is used when required and cut free before landing. The “Little Buddy” offers the possibility of being operated manually as an independent device. However, it can also be incorporated and controlled by the ALE-47 Airborne Countermeasures Dispenser System (made by BAE Systems).
In 1999, the ALE-50 Towed Decoy System was tested in Yugoslavia. The results were reportedly very encouraging. Hence, Air Force Officials reported that the system locked down and diverted 10 of 30 surface-to-air missiles that had been fired at B-1 bombers in different parts of Yugoslavia.
United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) confirmed that planes that have the ALE-50 Towed Decoy System installed in them are more likely to escape fatal enemy attacks. In a report to Congressional Committees in 1997, the GAO expressed its satisfaction regarding how this system improves survivability, and stated that test results indicate the ALE-50 Towed Decoy System, “offers improved effectiveness against radar-controlled threats.” Based on these results, the GAO recommended further use of the system on other platforms such as the F/A-18C/D that the Navy uses.
As far as the specifications of the ALE-50 Towed Decoy System are concerned, the system is equipped with a launch controller, as well as a launcher that is usually installed on the plane’s wing pylon, in addition to one or more expandable towed decoys, which has a shelf-life of ten years.
When speaking about the ALE-50 Towed Decoy System, Pat Hurley, vice president and general manager of Raytheon Electronic Warfare Systems, reiterated that, throughout its 50 years of existence, the company has always been concerned with developing its systems in order to provide the military with high-performing products. In this regard, Hurley added that the permanence of the company’s business and of the ALE-50 Towed Decoy System is a valid testimony to the company’s “high-performing products,” as well as its “laser-like focus on serving the customer.”
ALE-50 Towed Decoy System – Pricing
Many experts consider Raytheon to be a leading provider of systems that offer pilots with the most precise information available. With its $22 billion of sales in 2005, the company is also regarded as a leader in defense systems, information technology as well as business and special mission aircraft. The company has a workforce of about 80,000 deployed throughout the world.
Raytheon manufactures and sells the ALE-50 expendable decoy at $22,000 per unit. In October 2010, the company made a delivery of its latest production run (1,048 units). The total number of units that Raytheon has produced is estimated at 35,000 units, increasing the company’s sales to more than $500 million.
Issuance to the Military (Quantities)
Raytheon has now produced 25,682 units of the system. All of the units have been purchased by the US Department of Defense at a cost of $500 million ($22,000 per unit). The system was initially installed on F-16s only with plans of implementation on other platforms. Therefore, these plans have been carried out systematically and have now been completed successfully. Thus, the “Little Buddy” is currently installed on the B-1B bombers and F/A-18 aircraft.
In 2005, Raytheon received a production contract from the US Navy and the US Air Force. In late 2006, The US Air Force granted the manufacturing company a production contract for 862 decoys worth $21 million.
Use in War:
The system’s adaptability and reasonable cost enables it to be installed on a variety of aircraft. Thus, the ALE-50 Towed Decoy system now functions on many aircraft such as the F-16, F/A-18E/F, and B-1B aircraft.
The usefulness of the system has been proven in many situations. ALE-50 Towed Decoy System has shown its capabilities in every major war in which it was deployed. For instance, it considerably helped improve the survivability of aircraft and their crews in places like Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.
In this regard, Col. Art Huber, commander of the 542nd Combat Sustainment Group at Warner Robins Air Logistics Center, which is in charge of the ALE-50 praised the ALE-50 Towed Decoy System by saying that it is “credited with numerous aircraft saves,” and that “our pilots depend on it.”
Final Analysis of the ALE-50 Towed Decoy System
The “Little Buddy” is probably the best countermeasure in use, right now. Tests and actual use in wars have proven its efficacy. The ALE-50’s suitability and interoperability with other B-1B systems when installed in the B-1B bombers have been quite a success. Furthermore, the pricing is very encouraging, and the quality/price ratio has been a determining factor in making the system a must for every aircraft in service. This is why, many pilots who have been to war in different parts of the world have communicated that the ALE-50 Towed Decoy System has been critical in saving them and their aircraft from the dangers of guided missiles.
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