The MAST, or the Man Portable Survivability Trainer, created by Textron, is quickly becoming known as the shoulder-fired missile simulator of the future. It is a threat replicator meant to give aircrews a tough time during times of peace so that they will learn to survive in actual combat.
This MAST system borrows on the elements of other Man Portable Air Defense Systems and (MANPADS) and combines them into a neat, streamlined package. The MAST is an incredibly powerful yet light gun that is packed with passive sensors and computing power. At the front of it, there is a high-power LED emitter that replicates a missile’s launch and gives aircrews warning that they’re under attack.
By simulating different shoulder-fired surface-to-air systems attributes, it can activate an aircraft’s missile launch detection and countermeasures system from over three miles away and in broad daylight. Depending on which threat is being emulated, the aircraft’s warning system will alter the crew of the missile launch. During a live training event, the MAST system simulates MANPADs engagement sequence, including locking the seeker onto the target, firing with both IR and UV signature, and losing lock due to expendables (flares or BOL-IR chaff) and/or laser countermeasures, as well as evasive maneuvers.
Built in video with an information overlay allows for MAST engagements to be debriefed by crews after the mission, showing what worked and what didn’t when it came to defeating the simulated MANPADs shot and allowing them to make the necessary changes. As the MAST system continues to develop and proliferate, units can be further integrated into a networked threat simulation system, such as those found on the Nellis Range Complex, and/or deployed to individual flying units for effective countermeasures training year round.
Seeing as MANPADS are proliferating rapidly throughout the world – many of which are in some of our enemies hands – giving American and allied air crews an incredibly high fidelity learning tool like MAST is money well spent. This is especially true considering not just the human life involved, but the cost of aircraft themselves.
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