Navy upgrades aircraft defense system with laser warning technology

The Navy is upgrading its Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) System to include Advanced Threat Warning (ATW) sensors, which will enable early detection of hostile fire and give laser fire warnings to medium and heavy lift aircraft, according to the Navy’s Program Executive Office for Tactical Aircraft (PEO (T)).

First fielded in 2005, the LAIRCM system is designed to protect large, transport aircraft from infrared guided surface-to-air missiles. It pairs an infrared missile warning system (MWS) with an infrared laser jamming technology, called the Guardian Laser Turret Assembly (GTA), according to the Air Force.

The LAIRCM system is currently installed in Department of the Navy’s CH-53E/K Super Stallion and King Stallion helicopters, the MV-22 Osprey assault support aircraft used by the Marine Corps, and the Marine Corps KC-130J Hercules resupply aircraft.

When added to LAIRCM’s two-color infrared MWS, the ATW sensors will give large aircraft the ability to detect enemy fire and laser threats, said a spokesperson for the Navy’s PEO (T).

According to Harvard researchers, the “NextGen” two-color infrared MWS emits two distinct wavelengths within the infrared spectrum and uses the difference in the reflection time of the two waves to identify a missile plume signature and calculate its distance.

The ATW sensor’s hostile fire indication and laser warning capabilities will add high-speed optical sensors that can better distinguish weapon fire from false alarms and electromagnetic signal detection abilities.

The GLTA is the directed infrared countermeasure part of the LAIRCM system and is housed in a versatile pod that can be attached to the aircraft’s wing or fuselage, said the PEO (T) spokesperson.

“The GLTA… provides an inexhaustible laser countermeasure. The Guardian Laser Transmitter Assembly can be installed in both the podded configuration or directly to the fuselage (skin mounted). The configuration is based on the aircraft size, available real estate, required coverage, and required method of integration for each aircraft,” the PEO (T) spokesperson said.

For the latest updates, Northrop Grumman was awarded a $99,518,681 contract for procurement of the ATW sensors, control units, signal processors, and guardian laser transmitter assemblies necessary for the upgrade and installation of LAIRCM on Navy and Air Force combat aircraft. The procurement is expected to be completed by April 2019.

About the Author

Katherine Owens is a freelance reporter for Defense Systems

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