Aerial Warfare

Northrop Grumman Awarded US Air Force Contract to Deliver KC-135 LAIRCM Generation 3 Pods


Northrop Grumman Awarded US Air Force Contract to Deliver KC-135 LAIRCM Generation 3 Pods

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Northrop Grumman Awarded US Air Force Contract to Deliver KC-135 LAIRCM Generation 3 Pods
Northrop Grumman Awarded US Air Force Contract to Deliver KC-135 LAIRCM Generation 3 Pods

Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., Rolling Meadows, Illinois, was awarded a $16,497,388 firm-fixed-price delivery order for the KC-135 Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) Generation 3 Pods. This effort supports the production of the LAIRCM pod for the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refueling tanker and transport aircraft. Work will be performed in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, and is expected to be completed by March 23, 2026. This contract was a sole source acquisition. Fiscal 2022 National Guard and Reserve Equipment Appropriations funds in the amount of $16,497,388 are being obligated at time of award. The U.S. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity.

The Generation 3 podded LAIRCM system, known previously as Guardian™, is an infrared countermeasure system that detects, tracks and jams incoming missiles. It incorporates advanced missile warning sensors, a compact laser pointer/tracker and a processor in a single pod that can be readily transferred between aircraft to meet rapidly changing mission requirements. This mature system leverages Northrop Grumman’s decades-long countermeasures experience and requires no aircrew intervention. KC-135 aircrews can focus on their critical refueling, aeromedical evacuation and cargo missions while gaining the full survivability benefit the LAIRCM system provides. To achieve Milestone C, Northrop Grumman worked closely with the KC-135 Program Office, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Command to thoroughly test LAIRCM for KC-135 in the laboratory and the field.

Northrop Grumman Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM)
Northrop Grumman’s laser-based LAIRCM infrared countermeasure packages advanced missile warning sensors, a pointer/tracker and processor into a pod that can be transferred between KC-135 aircraft for survivability. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force)

The LAIRCM system defends domestic and international aircrews by detecting, tracking and jamming incoming infrared threats. The system automatically counters advanced infrared missile systems by directing a high-intensity laser beam into the missile seeker. Under these orders, Northrop Grumman is providing LAIRCM upgrades, modifications and installations on a wide range of U.S. fixed-wing and rotary wing aircraft. Additionally, this contract covers platforms operated by international customers around the globe. Northrop Grumman’s infrared countermeasure systems have been installed on more than 1,800 large and small fixed wing, rotary wing and tilt-rotor platforms of more than 80 types.

The Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker is an American military aerial refueling tanker aircraft that was developed from the Boeing 367-80 prototype, alongside the Boeing 707 airliner. It has a narrower fuselage and is shorter than the 707. Boeing gave the aircraft the internal designation of Model 717. The KC-135 was the United States Air Force (USAF)’s first jet-powered refueling tanker and replaced the KC-97 Stratofreighter. The KC-135 entered service with the USAF in 1957; it is one of nine military fixed-wing aircraft with over 60 years of continuous service with its original operator. The KC-135 is supplemented by the larger McDonnell Douglas KC-10 Extender. Studies have concluded that many of the aircraft could be flown until 2030, although maintenance costs have greatly increased. The KC-135 is to be partially replaced by the Boeing KC-46 Pegasus.

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