The US Department of Defense (DoD) announced on 10 January 2024, the award of a $16.5m contract to Northrop Grumman for LAIRCM Generation 3 Pods to be installed upon KC-135 aircraft, expected to be completed by March 23, 2026. 

The contract was a sole source acquisition awarded as a firm fixed price delivery order, with fiscal year 2022 National Guard and Reserve Equipment Appropriation funds. 

As a combination of a missile warning system and an infrared jammer countermeasure system, the LAIRCM system works by detecting incoming infrared missiles (such as those launched from a MANPADS system) determining if the missile is a threat, and then jamming the heat seeking element of the missile with a high intensity laser beam. 

Northrop Grumman was awarded a similar contract in June 2021, when the manufacturer were contracted to install LAIRCM onto fixed wing and rotary aircraft under a $146m order from the US Airforce (USAF).

“With its modular, scalable architecture, LAIRCM can adapt to numerous airframes and add technologies that enhance protection capabilities,” said Bob Gough, vice president for navigation, targeting and survivability at Northrop Grumman, as work continued in May 2023.

“This proven approach has enabled us to provide the US Air Force and thousands of aircrews with unmatched protection and aircraft survivability equipment that helps them stay safe against emerging threats.”

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The USAF has been contracting Northrop Grumman for the installation of LAIRCM systems at least as early as 2001, when the company was awarded a contract for the installation of LAIRCM onto a total of 20 Air Force C-130 and C-17 transport aircraft for $112m.

However, a 2011 report from the office of the Director of operation Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) found that while the LAIRCM Phase II system is operational effective it was not suitable as tested. It went on to say that DOT&E’s evaluation would be transmitted in a classified report in 2012.