MAIR: improving security for planes and helicopters

09 September 2021

MAIR (Multiple Aperture InfraRed) is a new-generation Missile Warning System developed by Leonardo to protect winged and propeller aircraft, including transport planes, light strike aircraft and helicopters in high threat density scenarios.

Developed by specialists in the company’s Nerviano plant – based on their experience of PIRATE and SkyWard airborne infra-red search and track (IRST) and the Silent Acquisition & Surveillance System (SASS) naval IRST – MAIR is a fully mature, highly qualified system, which is set for mass production with orders from clients around the world.



MAIR is an open system based on optical heads fitted with infrared sensors: a feature offering significant benefits over the ultraviolet sensors-based systems currently on the market, which are now obsolete. In addition to immediate threat detection, MAIR can follow a threat throughout its entire trajectory, ensuring more effective countermeasures. This follows the principle that the sooner it sees something, the sooner it can react, and the greater the probability of neutralising the threat.

MAIR is also much more dependable than the previous generation of systems, thanks to its very low rate of false alarms, even in ‘noisy’ scenarios dense with clutter.

The lightweight and smart system features heads each weighing less than 2kg, has its own processing capacity and can autonomously track threats, primarily represented by ground-to-air missiles. An aircraft is typically protected with installation of five optical heads, four of which are located on the sides of the platform and one on the underbelly, offering 360-degree coverage at the zenith and 270 degrees in elevation. A sixth one can be added on top to ensure complete protection.

As well as its missile alert capacity, MAIR also has Hostile Fire Indication capacity, providing pilots with an indication of the origin of shots from light firearms.

MAIR has a very simple interface with passive countermeasures (such as flares) and is compatible with active countermeasures such as DIRCM (Directed Infra Red Countermeasure), by Leonardo or another manufacturer.

Furthermore, with the adoption of a highly compact central processing unit – weighing only 15kg – MAIR can provide complete surveillance all around the platform. In effect, this is a projectable video ‘sphere’ using ‘picture in the picture’ techniques in the form of streaming directly to the pilot’s helmet, cockpit display or even the head-up display, enormously improving situational awareness.

MAIR can also passively discover air-to-air missiles and aircraft, and show the track on the aircraft’s various displays. In short, this development represents a true first, offering a major benefit in tactical management of even the most complex missions in troublesome areas with a high threat density.