The AN/ALE-50 towed decoy system was developed by Raytheon to protect multiple US military aircraft from radar-guided missiles. The AN/ALE-50 towed decoy system is an anti-missile countermeasures decoy system used on multiple U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps aircraft, and by certain non-United States air forces. The system is manufactured by Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems at its facility in Goleta, California. The ALE-50 system consists of a launcher and launch controller installed on the aircraft (usually on a wing pylon), and one or more expendable towed decoys. Each decoy is delivered in a sealed canister and has a ten-year shelf life.
When deployed, the decoy is towed behind the host aircraft, protecting the aircraft and its crew against RF-guided missiles by luring the missile toward the decoy and away from the intended target. In both flight tests and actual combat, the ALE-50 has successfully countered numerous live firings of both surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles. U.S. military pilots have nicknamed the decoy "Little Buddy".
The ALE-50 was first deployed in 1995, but is also used on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the B-1B Lancer. The ALE-50 has also been integrated into the next-generation ALQ-184(V)9 ECM pod, creating an integrated threat-protection system that can be carried on a larger number of platforms.
The ALE-50 expendable decoys’ estimated value is $22,000 each. The latest production run of 1,048 units will be delivering through October 2010.
The ALE-50 towed decoy has provided combat-proven aircraft protection against RF missile threats in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Featuring low acquisition and life-cycle cost, the system adaptability enables installation and operation on virtually any airborne platform. The ALE-50 towed decoy is currently operational on the F-16, F/A-18E/F, and B-1B aircraft.