Military laser systems from Northrop Grumman to protect Navy helicopters from shoulder-fired missiles

BY John Keller

PATUXENT RIVER NAS, Md.–The Northrop Grumman Corp. Electronic Systems segment in Rolling Meadows, Ill., will provide the U.S. Navy with military laser systems designed to protect heavy-lift helicopters from advanced shoulder-fired heat-seeking missiles under terms of a $77.7 million contract.

The Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md., is contracting with Northrop Grumman to provide 121 AN/AAQ-24(V) Guardian laser transmitter assemblies for Navy CH-53D, CH-53E, and CH-46E medium- and heavy-lift helicopters. These laser transmitters are part of the Northrop Grumman Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) directable laser-based countermeasures system for protecting helicopters and some fixed-wing aircraft from man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS). Northrop Grumman should be finished with this work in August 2012.

The Northrop Grumman AN/AAQ-24(V) Guardian laser system, shown above, will help protect Navy CH-53D, CH-53E, and CH-46E medium- and heavy-lift helicopters from shoulder-fired missiles.

Most aircraft can protect themselves from typical heat-seeking missiles by deploying flares that confuse incoming missiles with many different false targets and cause the missiles to go off course. Modern shoulder-fired missiles such as the U.S.-made Stinger and Russian-made Igla, however, have sophisticated missile-guidance systems designed to defeat flare-based missile-defense systems.

Stinger and Igla have dual-mode seekers that blend infrared and ultraviolet sensors able to distinguish aircraft from flare countermeasures. To defeat these advanced anti-aircraft missiles, something more sophisticated is necessary, such as the Guardian directional infrared countermeasure (DIRCM) system, which uses ultraviolet sensors to detect incoming missiles, and a laser to defeat the missile's guidance system. Guardian directs a laser at the incoming missile's seeker to cause guidance errors and induce the missile to fly harmlessly off course.

Northrop Grumman won an $80 million Navy contract last month to deliver more than 450 infrared missile warning systems (IRMWS) and 90 infrared warning processors to protect Navy medium- and heavy-lift helicopters from ground-fired missiles. These IRMWS and processor systems work together with Guardian laser transmitters in LAIRCM systems on U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E, CH-46E, and CH-53D helicopters.

The Northrop Grumman LAIRCM system also forms the baseline for the company's Common Infrared Countermeasures offering for the upcoming U.S. Army competition to supply an advanced infrared countermeasures systems, company officials say.

FOR MORE INFORMATION visit Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems online at, or Naval Air Systems Command at


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