USAF KC-135s To Test Northrop Grumman Missile Protection
Northrop Grumman has now equipped more than 400 aircraft of 42 types with its AAQ-24(V) Nemesis directed infrared countermeasures system, which is designed to protect aircraft against shoulder-launched missiles, or Manpads. The original plasma lamp-based turret gave way to the eye-safe Viper laser from 2002, and the system continues to be in great demand. Now the company is examining a range of new applications for Nemesis. The Guardian pod, which incorporates Nemesis technology and was developed for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for potential applications to commercial airliners, is now prepared for trials on a U.S. Air Force Boeing KC-135. Delays in replacing these elderly tankers have made the exercise worthwhile.
The Guardian pod may also be fitted to some of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet commercial airliners that support DOD deployments. Furthermore, there are studies to install Guardian on the KC-10 Extender and Boeing 757/C-32. Northrop Grumman has also proposed a Guardian-based installation to be carried on the centerline pylon of the close-air-support A-10, this station not normally being occupied with weapons.
Meanwhile, Northrop Grumman is looking at smaller, lighter units for helicopter use. Although Manpads are a particularly high-risk threat for rotary-wing aircraft, helicopters cannot carry enough weight to warrant a 500-pound installation nor can they generate enough power to drive the turret.