Northrop Grumman has been awarded a contract by the US Air Force (USAF) to deliver the next-generation MJU-73/B and MJU-62A/B infrared countermeasure (IRCM) flares.

Under the indefinite-delivery / indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) award, Northrop will focus on building an advanced, first-fire application technology.

This solution supports flare ignition by employing a first-fire coating and providing enhanced protection during the production process.

These high-performance IRCMs will protect large aircraft and helicopters from advanced surface-to-air missiles and air-to-air missiles.

The flares will serve as a key component of the protective measure suite used by the US military to improve the survivability of the aircraft.

According to the company, MJU-73/B and MJU-62A/B IRCM flares have been providing protection to aircrews for over five decades.

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The company’s continued efforts of testing and development has enabled it to deliver advanced solutions that meet the challenges addressed by peer and near-peer competitors.

Northrop Grumman propulsion systems vice-president Charlie Precourt said: “These newly developed countermeasure flares simulate an aircraft’s heat signature to divert infrared missiles away from the vehicle and decrease the odds of being struck.

“Our team is delivering this capability for our customer through our innovative technology, and digital and agile processes that were used during different points of programme lifecycles.”

The contract, which will not exceed $61.8m in value, has a period of performance until 2026.

Northrop recently broke ground on a new engineering and hypersonic production facility at Elkton in Maryland, US. This 60,000ft² facility will be designed to support full lifecycle production for hypersonic weapons.