Indian Air Force

Towed Decoys: Aircraft Self-Protection

Image Credits:- Raytheon

For a fighter jet, as much as offensive weapons matters, same does the defensive weapons or electronics matters. This is just because, if you have a good offensive and much more advantage of weapons and more strategic deterrence, all of this will be useless if a single SAM missile can bring you down. Hence Defensive measures are equally important. This includes various things like EW suite, Chaff, Flares, Jammers, etc. Decoys are one of them and here we would be discussing Towed decoys in a bit of detail.

What Are Towed Decoys?

Image Credits:- Rafael Advanced Defense Systems

Here, let’s understand the term “Decoy” first. Decoy means a thing that intends to attract someone by deceiving them. So basically Decoys on fighter aircraft work in a way, that they will attract the incoming threat and deceive it towards themselves. And here the term “towed” means “to pull someone/something behind one object. So, basically towed decoys are such that they are pulled along with the aircraft and that decoy will be part of the EW suits of aircraft.

This countermeasure basically for the RF-guided missiles i.e. Radar Guided missiles.  It works together with the aircraft’s electronic warfare system to provide radar jamming. In addition, it can also be used in a backup mode as a signal repeater, which allows it to lure incoming missiles away from their actual target.

There are many companies which make such decoys, here we are going to particularly talk about the Decoys used in our Rafale Aircrafts. The towed decoys of Rafale are made by Rafael Systems. The one on Rafale is named X-Guard Fiber Optic Supersonic Towed Decoy.

Capabilities Of Towed Decoys

Normal EW suits cannot protect from Missiles equipped with Monopulse Radar and LORO (Lobe-On-Recieve-Only) Radars. These decoys are specially made for the same that can decoy and jam other radars along with especially these two.

It can be used multiple times and also can be retracted. Also, it is not on the hardpoint, it added by additional pylon on the wings. It can fly along with aircraft up to a speed of 1.6 Mach and can withstand the forces and acceleration of 9G. Due to this, it can also be easily used when the jet is cruising at supersonic speed. The connection is basically with optic fiber so the power supply is always high.

How It Will Benefit Indian Rafale?

Image Credits:- Rafael Advanced Defense Systems

Suppose the aircraft is coming or approaching an area that is guarded by Air defenses, this towed decoy will help the aircraft to dodge the incoming missiles. Each and every Rafale of India has this Decoy and it has one decoy under each wing.

So, whenever the Spectra EW suite of Rafale detects the Incoming missiles i.e. SAM or Air-to-Air, these decoys are released. These decoys will lure the incoming attacking SAM or AAM missiles away from the protected platform, by creating an attractive false target signal. The missile will divert from homing the actual target (i.e. The parent Aircraft).

This decoy can be used against even sophisticated air defenses like LY-80, HQ-9, and even S-400, etc. Due to this decoys retractable nature, they can be also retracted back to aircraft after successful evade/jamming of the incoming threat. And after that, if another threat comes, it can be redeployed.

We all know, that missile in the final stages has less energy, so if even PL-15 gets fired on Rafale from a distance of more than 150kms then there are bright chances that the missile will miss hitting the rafale as there are very high chances that the missile could have deviated from the path by these decoys.


This technology comes with Rafale as of now and this would be very helpful again the incoming missiles of China and Pakistan. As of now it even seems to beat the PL-15 missiles. And after saving itself, Rafale can now take down enemy JF-17 or J-20 using its ramjet-powered Meteor BVR missile. It can also target enemy radar and electro-optical systems using precision-guided ammunition and anti-radiation missile.

Since the system is linked to the aircraft’s defensive avionics and EW system through a fiber-optic cable. It operates over a wide frequency range, to counter various types of radars and missiles. The decoy is retrievable and can be deployed several times during a mission. The fiber-optic connection to the aircraft allows accurate jamming.

This will make out Rafale safer, as of now most important asset of IAF. If these aircraft with decoys would have been in the Balakot incident and if in place of Sukhoi, if AMRAAM were fired on Rafale then Rafale would have gone more offensive rather than defensive than Sukhoi. And at the end, we could have seen, No Indian fighter going down and many Pakistani going down at the same time.


Nirav Kotak

A Mechanical Engineer and a Defense Enthusiast wanting to share knowledge and learn more from others as well.

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