A C-17 Globemaster III during a training mission
Decoy flares are infrared countermeasures used to protect aircraft from being detected by infrared homing missiles, that is those that detect heat sources like a jet engine. Like a plane’s guardian angels, the flares create false heat targets that confuse the guidance system of an enemy aircraft’s infrared missiles.
An AC-130H during multi-gunship formation egress training
Apart from being a simple and effective defense mechanism, decoy flares are also surprisingly beautiful. No wonder they have been nicknamed angel wings.