C-130 Hercules transport aircraft

The US Air Force (USAF) has awarded a $334m firm-fixed-price contract to Northrop Grumman for the supply of Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasure (LAIRCM) systems and support services.

Under the contract, the company will provide LAIRCM hardware and engineering, programme management, logistics, and spares as well as installation and field service support to the air force beginning immediately and continuing through April 2014.

Developed from the AN/AAQ-24(V) NEMESIS, the AN/AAQ-24(v) LAIRCM is a directed Infra Red (IR) countermeasures system, designed to defend large transport and rotary-wing aircraft from IR-guided missile threats using a laser pointer-tracker.

LAIRCM features five IR missile warning system (MWS) sensors, central processor, control indicator unit (CIU) for cockpit display, two Pointer-tracker/jamming subsystems or guardian laser tracker assemblies (GLTA) consisting of four-axis stabilised gimbaled system, fine track sensor (FTS) and a Viper laser.

The system provides automatic protection for aircraft against shoulder-fired, vehicle-launched, and other IR guided missiles during normal take-off and landing, assault landings, tactical descents, air drops, low-level flight, and aerial refuelling missions.

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Critical to troops’ safety, the system protects the aircraft by automatically detecting missile launches and activating a high-intensity system of pulsed lasers to track and defeat the threat by confusing its guidance system without requiring input from the aircrew.

The company has also been awarded a five-year, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract by the USAF in July 2006 to deliver LAIRCM system hardware and support for the C-17 Globemaster III and C-130 Hercules transport aircraft.

The system will also be deployed on a total of 156 US Marine Corps (USMC) CH-53E, CH-53D and CH-46E medium-lift and heavy-lift, assault support helicopters.

The company intends to develop next generation LAIRCMs with missile-warning sensors that can detect infrared rather than ultraviolet signatures from attacking missiles in cluttered environments.

Northrop was also awarded a contract in July 2008 to provide LAIRCM to the UK’s Royal Air Force’s (RAF) air-to-air refuelling and transport aircraft.

Image: Northrop LAIRCM system will be deployed on the USAF C-130J Hercules aircraft to guard against IR-guided missile threats.
Photo: US Air Force photo/Senior Master Sgt. Dennis Goff.