Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) has received a $3.6 billion indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (IDIQ) award for Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasure (LAIRCM) systems and support from the U.S. Air Force. Under the IDIQ, the Air Force may issue task or delivery order awards up to the ceiling amount specified in the contract. Work under the contract is set to conclude in 2025. The initial task order is $2.4 million for logistics support services.
The system will be installed on C-17 Globemaster III, MC-130, CV-22 Osprey, and the CH-53E Super Stallion. The system is also the basis for the Northrop Grumman Guardian system marketed for commercial aircraft. LAIRCM-Lite is a C-17 program that uses a combination of laser jammers and flares due to the limited availability of LAIRCM components. AN/AAQ-24 consists of a missile warning system (AN/AAR-54), an integration unit, a processor, and laser turrets (Small Laser Transmitter Assembly, SLTA). Early versions used an arc lamp to generate the jamming signal.
The AN/AAQ-24 system is a directional infrared countermeasure (DIRCM) system to protect aircraft from infrared (IR) homing (“heat seeking”) man-portable missiles. This system is the only DIRCM system in production today that will protect aircraft from today’s infrared guided missiles. Traditional IR countermeasures are not effective against the modern IR missiles that are growing in popularity among terrorist groups and in thirdworld countries. A Directional Infrared Countermeasures (DIRCM) system is required to defeat the latest and future advanced IR threats, and has a lower life cycle cost compared to other IR countermeasure approaches.
DIRCM is a lightweight, compact system designed to provide mission-vulnerable aircraft with increased protection from common battlefield threats. It is more advanced than conventional infrared countermeasures. The system uses an active method of jamming of infrared missile seekers through the sensor aperture. The system can be placed in either active or standby mode. In the standby mode the aircrew must select the active mode to begin jamming IR threats. The pulsing flashes of IR energy confuse the missile guidance system. Northrop Grumman’s various infrared countermeasure systems are now installed or scheduled for installation on more than 1,000 military aircraft around the world to protect 55 different types of large fixed-wing transports and rotary-wing platforms from infrared missile attacks.