Northrop Grumman, an aerospace and defence company based out of the US, has been awarded a patent that shows an aircraft defence system that involves the use of missiles to eliminate other missiles that might be targeting it.

If it is developed, it would be a smaller version of the CIWS defence systems used in naval vessels that can detect and destroy inbound missiles, reports the Drive. The technology exists in large vehicles but has not yet been developed for aircrafts.

It is not clear when this missile defence system will be developed and deployed.

Descriptions from the patent filing point to a "defence system on an aircraft for destroying threats to the aircraft". The report goes on to explain that this defence system will have at least one miniature guided missile mounted on a launch tube. The guided missiles include a dedicated target acquisition and seeker device.

Controllers guide the missile once it is launched and the seeker system will direct the guided missile to the threat and destroy it.

A graphic image from the patent filing shows an aircraft with the system included in its underbelly with six missile launch pods in a pop out setup. It suggests that the system will be flush to the fighter when in flight and will drop down, facing the back of the plane only when it detects a threat.

Initially, the defence system will reportedly make use of existing, onboard sensors like radar and DAS missile approach warning systems. Once launched, the "mini-missiles" will have radar, infrared and other laser seekers, says the report. These will help the missiles lock on to targets and destroy them.

If developed, this system can be incorporated into any aircraft including helicopters, fighters, bombers, in spite of the patent images showing a signature stealth looking aircraft. Because it sits flush with the body of the plane, it can be fit into high risk, low flying warplanes that fly directly into hostile territory.

There is little else that can be gleaned from the patent filing, but there are speculations that include the systems having active decoy systems that can confuse incoming threats before effectively destroying them. The report also noted that these technologies all exist independently, but miniaturising them and bringing them all together is what this patent points at.

A rendering of the upcoming B-21 stealth bomber- one of the candidates for the defence system should it be developed Northrop Grumman