Missile warning receiver

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As part of the broad range of electronic warfare components, a missile warning receiver detects the thermal signature of potential surface-to-air and air-to-air missile threats to tactical aircraft, and is related to theater and strategic electro-optical MASINT systems that detect ballistic and cruise missiles.

Tactical systems

The technology is considered is a form of infrared countermeasures,[1] The name is somewhat confusing, as the actual threat detector is in the ultraviolet, not infrared light spectrum. See infrared countermeasures for some issues and trends.[2]

Additional MASINT technologies may detect atmospheric disturbances from tactical missiles, and, of course, missile warning may come from radar that senses the missile.

Strategic systems

While the term "missile warning receiver" is usually considered a tactical system, strategic warning of ICBM launches goes back to the Defense Support Program (DSP), which were space-based missile-launch-only detectors. These, and their upgrades, became significant theater-level assets in the Gulf War, when they provided warning to troops and MIM-104 Patriot missiles of SS-1 SCUD launches.

The new Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS). [3] As opposed to DSP and its high-altitude launch sensor replacement, SBIRS, STSS actually can track the missiles after launch, and may give cruise missile warning relevant to ships.


  1. Director, Operational Test and Evaluation, U.S. Department of Defense, Suite of Integrated Infrared Countermeasures (SIIRCM)/Common Missile Warning System (CMWS, AN/AAR-57) Includes: Advanced Threat Infrared Countermeasures (ATIRCM, AN/ALQ-212), Annual Report FY 2003, pp. 103-105
  2. Richard J. Nelson, Integrated Hostile Fire Indication Sensor, Solid State Scientific Corporation
  3. Northrop Grumman, Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS)