Contractors Vie for U.S. Army IR Countermeasures Program

 - August 15, 2011, 5:10 AM
Raytheon system developed for the U.S. Army’s Common Infrared Countermeasures (CIRCM) program. (Photo: Raytheon)

The U.S. Army is expected to award technology development contracts next month for a modular, lightweight infrared countermeasures system to defeat shoulder-fired missiles. BAE Systems, ITT Exelis, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon are the announced competitors for the Common Infrared Countermeasures (CIRCM) requirement. The winning contractor could gain business worth more than $1.5 billion to supply hundreds of systems for Apache, Black Hawk, Chinook and future armed scout helicopters. Two or more 21-month technology development contracts will be awarded first, followed by a two-year engineering and manufacturing development phase, production in 2015 and deployment from 2017.

BAE and Northrop Grumman are the incumbent suppliers of infrared countermeasures on Army and other military aircraft, respectively the ALQ-212 advanced threat infrared countermeasures (ATIRCM) and the AAQ-24 Nemesis directional infrared countermeasures (DIRCM). With a nominal weight of 85 pounds, the CIRCM system will replace the heavier ATIRCM system fielded as a quick-reaction capability on Army Chinooks in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Among the new contenders, ITT has invested more than $30 million in independent research and development funds on a solution, Bob Ferrante, vice president and general manager of ITT’s Airborne and Electronic Attack division, told AIN. The system, which uses a quantum cascade laser (QCL) from Daylight Defense, has been flight-tested on UH-60 Black Hawks. Lockheed Martin’s system integrates the Daylight Defense QCL with pointer tracker units from DRS Technologies. Raytheon uses the seeker from its AIM-9X air-to-air missile as a pointer-tracker turret, integrated with the Northrop Grumman ASALTT QCL. “We’ve verified that you can hook up a fiber laser to an air-to-air missile seeker and it will work effectively as a CIRCM system,” said Mike Booen, Raytheon vice president of advanced security and directed energy systems.

Laser-based countermeasures would not have prevented the August 6 crash of a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook in Afghanistan that killed 38 U.S. and Afghan soldiers. The helicopter is believed to have been downed by a Taliban rocket-propelled grenade (RPG). The Army has launched an official crash investigation. Raytheon’s Booen told AIN that solid-state lasers do not currently offer enough power to defeat RPGs.