Northrop Grumman to develop and demonstrate infrared search and track sensors for use on military aircraft

Aug. 24, 2023
MuSTeR seeks to enhance U.S. military sensor system research by using the entire electromagnetic spectrum for persistent surveillance and awareness.

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio – U.S. Air Force researchers needed help in developing infrared sensors to enable combat aircraft to search wide areas covertly. They found their solution from the Northrop Grumman Corp. Mission Systems segment in Linthicum, Md.

Officials of the Multispectral Sensing & Detection Division of the Air Force Research Laboratory Sensors Directorate at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, announced a $8.1 million follow-on contract to Northrop Grumman last week as part of the Multi-Spectral Sensing Technologies R&D (MuSTeR) program.

This contract is for the Advanced Staring Infrared Search and Track Technologies (ASISTT) portion of the MuSTer program, which seeks to develop infrared sensors for use aboard aircraft.

Related: SRI eyes infrared search and track (IRST) technology and machine learning for airborne target detection

Overall, MuSTeR seeks to enhance the state-of-the-art in U.S. military sensor system research by using the entire electromagnetic spectrum to deliver next-generation capabilities for global persistent awareness.

Northrop Grumman won an $840,429 MuSTeR contract in July 2022 to support test flight of sensor systems. Other MuSTeR contractors are looking into low-cost infrared search and track (LC-IRST) system design tradeoffs, cloud clutter suppression algorithms and processing, and machine learning techniques with the potential to improve overall IRST detection performance.

Infrared search and track capability is important for modern aircraft because it can detect and track enemy aircraft and missiles without giving away its presence. Active search systems like radar, for example, must emit electronic signals that tip off the enemy to its presence; it's like shining a flashlight in a darkened room.

Related: Boeing to install upgraded infrared search and track sensors aboard Air Force F-15 jet fighter aircraft

Northrop Grumman also will provide flight-test support for current and future advancements in large format focal plane arrays, read-out architectures, sensor chip assembly designs, wide-field-of-view optical designs, and advanced processing methods for target detection and tracking at range and in clutter that exploits the high frame rate advantages of a staring system.

Other focus areas of the MuSTeR program for which Northrop Grumman will provide flight support are multiband multifunction radio frequency sensing; laser radar technology; passive radio frequency sensing; and distributed radio frequency sensing.

For more information contact Northrop Grumman Mission Systems online at, or the Air Force Research Laboratory at

About the Author

John Keller | Editor-in-Chief

John Keller is the Editor-in-Chief, Military & Aerospace Electronics Magazine--provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronics and optoelectronic technologies in military, space and commercial aviation applications. John has been a member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since 1989 and chief editor since 1995.

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