They are often considered the final bastion against missiles. Since the appearance of this kind of weapon in naval combat nearly 50 years ago, decoys have evolved in keeping pace with the ever-increasing sophistication of missile technology by deploying new tactics to stay ahead of the threat. As in other areas of war at sea, it is an ongoing offensive vs defensive battle to gain the upper hand.
In the field of passive electronic war, France is considered to be at the forefront with its national champion, Etienne Lacroix, supplying its decoys throughout the world. This family-owned company is in its 168th year and began as a fireworks affair. The story began with its young founder, Etienne Lacroix, then a cook in Toulouse, France, deciding in 1848 to set up a fireworks workshop. It was the debut of a long history that would lead the company to put on some of the most memorable fireworks spectaculars of its time and to continue to pursue this activity even today. This internationally renowned savoir-faire was enhanced by that of Ruggieri — another French family specialised in fireworks — with an even longer history, dating back to 1739. From fireworks displayed before French kings and Russian tsars to today, with its impressive fireworks shows for events in Dubai, the football World Cup and in Carcassonne, France, Lacroix continues to dazzle audiences with new and increasingly sophisticated shows
(© : Ruggieri)
Naval activity commenced in the 80s
Building on its historical basis and expertise, the group entered the military sector. After first applying pyrotechnics to land-based uses in the 50s, it was in the 70s that the Toulouse-based company dedicated itself to this field by specialising in naval decoys.
At the time, the French Navy was seeking to arm itself with a new countermeasures system capable of decoying the latest generation of homing missiles.
Furthermore the destruction of the British frigate, the HMS Sheffield, on May 10, 1982 by an Argentinian missile during the Falklands War left a mark. Navies then became aware of the vital need to be capable of defeating the new missiles.
It became clear at the time that the first generation of passive decoys were no longer sufficient: deploying a rudimentary cloud of chaff (metallic strips) to generate a larger echo than that of the ship had reached its limits. Missile companies had realised that their radar guidance systems were relatively easy to deceive. They in turn reduced the target zone — the telemetric window enabling the missile to select a given point on a given target.
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