Northrop Grumman Lands Another LAIRCM Contract, Awaits CIRCM Protest

 - March 23, 2012, 4:03 PM
The sensor turret of Northrop Grumman’s AN/AAQ-24 large aircraft infrared countermeasure (LAIRCM) deployed on a U.S. Marine Corps CH-53 Super Stallion helicopter. (Photo: Northrop Grumman)

Northrop Grumman has gained a large new contract from the U.S. Air Force to supply its large aircraft infrared countermeasures (LAIRCM) system for fixed-wing platforms. In February it was one of two contractors the Army selected to demonstrate a next-generation common infrared countermeasures (CIRCM) system for helicopters and other aircraft, although a bid protest has stalled that program.

The company announced a $334 million contract from the Air Force to supply the AN/AAQ-24 system through April 2014 for platforms including the C-5 Galaxy, C-17 Globemaster III and C-130 Hercules, extending its legacy of supplying infrared countermeasures to the Air Force since 2001. The modular, open-architecture LAIRCM system is produced at the company’s Rolling Meadows, Ill., facility and comes with a mix of different sensors, including a choice of the Selex SLTA (small laser transmitter assembly) or Northrop Grumman GLTA (Guardian laser transmitter assembly) pointer-tracker assemblies.

Last month, the U.S. Army awarded 21-month technical demonstration contracts to Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems for the CIRCM program to develop a lightweight, laser-based countermeasure system that eventually could be deployed on rotary-wing and light fixed-wing aircraft across the services. However, work is suspended on that program while the Government Accountability Office (GAO) considers a bid protest filed by ITT Exelis on February 10. The GAO has until May 21 to uphold or deny the protest.

Last September, the Navy awarded Northrop Grumman a development contract to upgrade the AN/AAQ-24 (V) 25 LAIRCM systems on Marine Corps CH-53D/E Super Stallion and CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters with a multi-spectral advanced threat warning (ATW) sensor capable of detecting a variety of threats, including small-arms fire. The company anticipates a decision on low-rate initial production this year, said Jeff Palombo, Northrop Grumman vice president and general manager for Land and Self Protection Systems Division.

The LAIRCM system was also part of Boeing’s proposal for the Air Force’s KC-X tanker competition (now the KC-46A), awarded to Boeing in February 2011 for its 767-based platform. Palombo told AIN that Northrop Grumman is now discussing a contract with Boeing.