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Northrop Grumman receives $3.6B contract for infrared missile countermeasures

By Stephen Carlson
A Stinger missile team fires during an exercise. Photo by Sgt. Christopher Case/1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division
A Stinger missile team fires during an exercise. Photo by Sgt. Christopher Case/1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division

Dec. 18 (UPI) -- The Air Force has awarded Northrop Grumman $3.6 billion for an extended contract for Large Aircraft Infrared Counter Measures production and support services.

The contract, announced Monday by the Department of Defense, provides for LAIRCM units, logistical support and related engineering services.The contract will extend through 2025, with no funding obligated upon award. The contract will include foreign military sales.

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LAIRCM, part of the AN/AAQ-24(V) DIRCM system, is designed to defeat infrared guided missiles by directing a laser into their seeker head, thus blinding it and throwing off its ability to follow a aircraft's heat signature generated by it's engines and friction.

Conventional systems like flares, which involve dropping other heat sources in order to distract the missile, are becoming obsolete against modern missiles, according to Northrop Grumman.

Larger airplanes like heavy bombers, cargo planes and commercial aircraft used for ferrying troops are particularly vulnerable to shoulder fired infrared guided missiles which have become increasingly available, according to Northrop Grumman.

MANPADS, or man portable air defense systems, can be deployed by individuals or small teams for reloading purposes.

Many are relatively primitive, including some short-ranged models left over from exports from the Soviet Union, but modern versions such as the FIM-92 Stinger produced by the United States can strike altitudes of several miles.

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Current exports of the missile are tightly controlled due to fears over terrorism and the threat to commercial airliners, which would not have the conventional countermeasures and maneuverability needed to defeat the missiles.

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