Why Do Pilots Flare? [Explained]

We all have seen in the movies how the pilot sparks a series of lights or flares to dodge the incoming missiles. Let us know what are flares and why do pilots use flares.

What are Flares

Flares are very hot, burning objects that are released from an aircraft to prevent the incoming missile from hitting it. Flares are made up of a special material which ignite instantaneously as soon as it comes in the contact with the air.

A Flare is also know as decoy flare which is an aerial infrared countermeasure used by a military aircraft or helicopter to counter an IR (Infrared) surface to air or air to air missile. Infrared means Heat Seeking. These flares sense the heat of an upcoming live missile and hence tend to protect the aircraft from an attack.

Here Is How Much Those Decoy Flares Cost That Military Aircraft Fire Off  All The Time

Flares are generally composed of pyrotechnic composition which is a mixture of substances designed to produce an effect of heat and light, sound, gas or smoke or a combination of these as a result of non detonative self sustaining exothermic reaction. These pyrotechnic composition is based on magnesium or another hot burning material with burning temprature equal to or hotter than engine exhaust. This is made so as to make the infrared-guided missile seek out the heat signature from the flare rather than the aircraft’s engine.

Working of a Flare / How Flares are used?

Flare acts against an IR guided missiles. When IR missiles are launched they are very difficult to find on the radar as they do not emit detectable radar and they are generally find from behind.

Sometimes the pilots have their wingman to spot the incoming missiles smoke trail and alert a launch. When the presence of IR missile is indicated, flares are released by the aircraft in an attempt to decoy the missile. Some aircrafts have the automatic control of releasing while others require a manual request.

After firing the flares, the aircraft generally pulls away at a very sharp angle from the flare and the terminal trajectory of the missile. While turning it reduces the engine power in attempt to cool the thermal signature. The live missile now gets confused with the change in temprature and flurry of new heat signatures and now starts to follow one of the flares, rather than the aircraft.

Importance of Flares

Flares protect aircraft by forcing infrared threats, such as heat-seeking, surface-to-air or air-to-air missiles, to lock onto their heat signatures rather than the aircraft’s engine. Each aircraft is loaded with various types of flares depending on mission, location and requirements.

Does only military aircraft uses flares?

No it’s not necessary that only military aircraft uses flares. Apart from military use, some civilian aircraft are also equipped with countermeasure flares. For example Israeli airline EI AI used it’s flare technology against an incoming surface to air missile to prevent off the attack. Similarly many transport helicopters in USA and UK uses flare and chaff technology. Commercial airlines which are going in a dangerous area for example above Syria or above any country which is occupied by an active militant group are fitted with chaff or flare technology so as to prevent any SAM (Surface to Air Missile) attack.

I hope this article have cleared your doubts regarding flare, it’s technology, uses and it’s importance. Stay tuned for more articles like this.

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Siddhant Sandhu

    Defence Content Blogger at SSBCrackExams, An avid reader, UPSC aspirant and curious about international realtions. Pursuing my Masters in Computer Applications, National Cyclist, Ex NCC SUO.

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