Active Infra-Red (IR) systems developed in the past ten years are now available for missile defense applications. The main purpose of this paper is to describe the advantages an active IR system could offer to a ballistic missile defense (BMD). The active IR system considered in this paper is a LIDAR (LIght Detection And Ranging) system.
Historically, the Lincoln Laboratory in the USA began using lasers in the early 1960's. The initial applications included the development of a LIDAR system enabling the measurement of the distance between the earth and the moon in 1962.
Satellite tracking using LIDAR began early in 1973. Today, technological developments, with the miniaturization of systems and increased performance levels, have enabled new ambitious projects such as the Discrimination Interceptor Technology Program (DITP) program started in 1998 and the use of LIDAR to help in the discrimination of future exo-atmospheric interceptors within the framework of BMD.
The first part of this paper presents the possible contribution of LIDAR to BMD: the main roles, objectives, and strategic advantages.
The second part gives a brief overview of the technological features of a generic LIDAR instrument, rapidly addressing laser sources, detectors, optics and electronics.
Finally, a modeling of an IR LIDAR system, limited solely to direct detection, and an estimation of performance levels will be presented. A list of possible IR active discriminators will be then presented on the basis of the previous analysis and proposed as new constraints in the design of discrete objects.