Northrop Grumman has received a contract to produce a next-generation, laser-based infrared countermeasure system for the US Army.

Awarded by the Army Contracting Command, the $35.3m cost-plus-fixed-fee, fixed-price incentive, and firm-fixed-price hybrid contract includes options for engineering and manufacturing development and low-rate initial production of the Common Infrared Countermeasure (CIRCM) programme.

The CIRCM programme aims to develop a laser-based, infrared countermeasures solution to protect US helicopters and light fixed-wing aircraft against infrared guided missiles or man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS) and other heat-seeking weapons.

Northrop Grumman Land & Self Protection Systems sector vice-president and general manager Jeff Palombo said: "The US Army’s selection of Northrop Grumman and our industry partners, Daylight Solutions of San Diego, California and Selex ES, Edinburgh, Scotland, for the CIRCM program is a critical next step toward protecting rotary-wing and medium fixed-wing aircraft against emerging infrared missile threats of today and tomorrow by augmenting existing self-protection systems with a directed laser jamming capability.

"We have outlined a path to superior aircraft protection through highly reliable performance and operation, a commitment to modular open systems architecture, and the ability to seamlessly integrate new technology.

"We have outlined a path to superior aircraft protection through highly reliable performance and operation."

"We are proud to have been selected to work with the army to ensure our warfighters have the most advanced aircraft protection for decades to come."

Work under the contract is scheduled to be carried out at Northrop Grumman’s Land & Self Protection Systems Division facility in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, US, with an estimated completion date of October 2017.

Northrop has developed eight CIRCM systems as part of the $31.4m technology development phase contract awarded by the army in February 2012. The first system was delivered to the army along with a complete hardware set in January 2013.

During a trial aboard a UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter at Redstone Arsenal in Alabama in September 2014, the system demonstrated effectiveness under intense aircraft environments, including turns, banks, gunfire, flares, clutter, multiple shots, rotor blades, and engine exhaust.

Image: The CIRCM system will protect fixed-wing aircraft against MANPADS and other heat-seeking weapons. Photo: courtesy of Northrop Grumman Corp.