The US Air National Guard (ANG) and Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) are set to receive three new system pods from Northrop Grumman, enhancing the refuelling capability of the KC-135 Stratotankers.
Under a $31.7m contract, Northrop will deliver two full large aircraft infrared countermeasures system pods and one shell, which is designed for the tanker.
The company will also support flight testing and training activities in 2016.
The new pods, which will be shared between the Guard and Reserve, will have 360-degree coverage with a capacity to detect and track man-portable, air-defence missile launch systems.
In addition, the system can use a laser to jam missile’s guidance system to distract it from the targeted aircraft.
AFRC Headquarters KC-135 weapons system manager senior master sergeant James Rose said: "The pods can be taken off one aircraft and installed on another with relative ease, so they will be centrally located and installed based on need downrange.
"This is going to make the fuel receivers more efficient because we have the capability to safely stay closer to the fight instead of them needing to come all the way out when they get low on fuel."
The Northrop-built system comprises a laser pointer / tracker and four infrared missile-warning sensors.
Recently, Lockheed Martin successfully completed the first flight test of its multi-function sensor system Legion Pod at Fort Worth, Texas, US.
The Legion Pod is designed to support collaborative targeting operations in radar-denied environments.
This multi-function sensor offers high-fidelity detection and tracking of airborne targets using an IRST21 infrared sensor and advanced networking and data processing technology.
Image: A large aircraft infrared countermeasures system pod is mounted onto an aircraft. Photo: courtesy of US Air Force.