IRST, Gripen E’s Silent Observer and Hunter
With growing airborne threats, India will have to rely on situational awareness to deal with stealth aircraft, including drones that can drop payloads. Gripen, an aircraft that champions in situational awareness with the use of advanced sensors and radars such as the Selex ES IRST (Infra Red Search and Track) and AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar, will give the Indian Air Force an edge when dealing with future threats.
The role of the IRST can be best described as Gripen’s eyes and ears in conflicts and in BVR (Beyond Visual Range) combat. It is an electro-optical system that is fitted on top of Gripen's nose, which registers heat emissions from other aircraft, helicopters and from objects on the ground and sea surface.
With the help of an AEW (Airborne Early Warning) aircraft like the Saab GlobalEye, the IRST can even track low observable targets at long range. The great thing about the EW system of the Gripen fighter is that it helps the pilot work with other Gripen fighters and air units during combat. This, combined with the IRST makes it easier for the fighter to detect stealth aircrafts from an angle outside their stealth sector.
IRST is best known as a passive sensor that does not emit signals while detecting, identifying, and tracking targets. This means that Gripen’s position is not given away during a BVR combat, increasing its chances of winning.
IRST is one of the major improvements in Gripen E/F as compared to its previous versions. The function of the IRST and its integration with Gripen was first tested in April 2014. The integration (to the latest Gripen E fighters) work is going as per schedule.
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