A Very Close Look At The Anti-Missile System That Will Equip 1,500+ US Army Helicopters



File photograph. An AH-64E Apache Guardian and UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter conduct a multi-ship capabilities demonstration at Fort Rucker, Alabama, October 27, 2022. (U.S. Military photograph by Lt. Col. Andy Thaggard) Within the field: CIRCM jammer head. (Picture: Northrop Grumman)

The brand new Directional Infrared Countermeasures system has just lately grow to be operational with the U.S. Military.

After being put in on greater than 100 U.S. Military helicopters, the Northrop Grumman Frequent Infrared Countermeasures (CIRCM) system has reached the Preliminary Operational Functionality (IOC) demonstrating the power to discipline, make use of and keep the brand new Directional Infrared Countermeasures (DIRCM) in vital portions on the service’s rotary wing property. The necessities for IOC have been reached on the UH-60M, HH-60M, CH-47F and AH-64Es, paving the way in which for the accelerated fielding of CIRCM systems on greater than 1,500 Military plane.

“The IOC for CIRCM displays the super partnership between the acquisition group, R&D and testing organizations, Troopers from the Aviation Department in addition to our business companions,” mentioned Lt. Col. Adrian Watts, Product Supervisor for Infrared Countermeasures. “The system is a key enabler for Multi-Area Operations within the Military 2030 Drive and this marks an essential step in Military modernization by fielding a vital functionality that protects U.S. Military aircrews and plane towards MANPAD threats in a contested surroundings.”

The IOC included each the installation and training of the systems on aircraft throughout a number of Military installations. These programs have had the advantage of classes discovered throughout the previous decade along with the Aviation Neighborhood, mentioned the Military. CIRCM’s predecessor, the Superior Menace Infrared Countermeasure (ATIRCM), supplied safety for the Chinook for a number of years previous to fielding the brand new, lighter, extra succesful system, and delivered invaluable perception into how you can finest make use of the expertise.

“CIRCM’s means to trace and quickly defeat infrared-guided threats has been validated over hundreds of hours of rigorous testing in laboratory, flight and live-fire check environments,” mentioned Bob Gough, vp, navigation, focusing on and survivability, Northrop Grumman. “Reaching IOC was made doable by the whole crew’s dedication and our sturdy partnership with the Military. Collectively we’ll present U.S. Military aircrews with CIRCM’s unmatched risk safety.”

Northrop Grumman has delivered over 250 CIRCM programs to the Military, together with the 100 already put in on the service’s helicopters which have amassed greater than 11,000 flight hours because the first discipline set up in December 2021. CIRCM was particularly designed to guard rotary wing and medium mounted wing plane from shoulder-fired and vehicle-launched infrared-guided anti-aircraft missiles, guaranteeing aircrew survivability.

One in every of two U.S. Military UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters from third Battalion, 142nd Aviation Regiment, Assault Helicopter Battalion, hooked up to thirty sixth Fight Aviation Brigade, prepares to land aboard the united statesLewis B. Puller throughout a deck touchdown qualification coaching train within the Persian Gulf, Nov. 10, 2022. (U.S. Military photograph by 2nd Lt. Tiffany Paruolo, 3-142nd AHB Public Affairs Consultant) [Author’s note: CIRCM jammer heads are visible behind the main rotor mast and below the fuselage]

Because the next generation of laser-based infrared countermeasure systems, CIRCM’s modular, open programs method works with current {hardware}, simplifies upgrades, and retains lifecycle prices low to offer flexibility and a stable platform to construct upon sooner or later. Northrop Grumman says it’s persevering with to develop and enhance CIRCM to overmatch present and future threats, with one improve at present in check being an enhanced laser Line Replaceable Unit which is able to improve functionality towards near-peer threats.

The truth is, whereas it was initially born as a 4th gen DIRCM system, CIRCM later advanced in a fifth gen system throughout its growth to defeat each present and rising missile threats. “The system has made many enhancements because the preliminary design and has reworked into a really succesful system for the US Military,” mentioned to us Dennis Neel, Director of Survivability Growth Applications, Northrop Grumman. “The risk by no means stands nonetheless so the system will proceed to enhance and incorporate expertise enhancements as out there and as wanted.”

As Military Aviation appears to evolve with the Future Vertical Carry program, together with the Future Assault Reconnaissance Plane (FARA) and Future Lengthy Vary Assault Plane (FLRAA), the CIRCM system is effectively positioned to help in future readiness with its decreased weight and elevated efficiency over legacy programs. In keeping with the Military’s press launch, CIRCM weighs lower than 120lbs when put in on Blackhawk and Apache helicopters and fewer than 155lbs on Chinooks, which is a 62% weight discount from the ATIRCM system.

The Military additionally mentioned CIRCM installs on the present fleet will help inform FARA and FLRAA requirements on account of its choice because the system to carry out this functionality for Future Vertical Carry platforms. The truth is, CIRCM has been proposed for the set up on the Future Vertical Carry helicopters, along with the AN/APR-39E(V)2 digital Radar Warning Receiver/Digital Warfare Administration System, the following technology of the APR-39 RWR that has been in service for many years with the Military.

What’s CIRCM?

CIRCM is a light-weight dual-jammer Directional Infrared Counter Measures (DIRCM) system designed particularly to guard rotary wing and medium mounted wing plane from infrared-guided missiles. The twin-jammer configuration was chosen because it gives spherical safety and the very best stage of plane survivability, in comparison with a single head DIRCM. Northrop Grumman says that the system is constructed on open structure to work with current {hardware} and makes use of a compact pointer/tracker, a light-weight Industrial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) processor and superior Quantum Cascade Laser (QCL) expertise for better reliability and scalability.

CIRCM additionally meets demanding dimension, weight and energy (SWaP) necessities, to supply business main functionality for a wide range of SWaP restrictive platforms for the US and its allies. SWaP necessities have gotten extra essential as new plane carry way more digital programs, which collectively are heavier and more power-hungry than in the past. Additionally, prior to now some DIRCM programs did not be put in in mass on helicopters due to their extreme weight.

“The helicopter surroundings gives a really difficult surroundings, with SWaP posing one of many biggest challenges,” mentioned Neel. “CIRCM was designed with the distinctive Helicopter SWaP in thoughts. Becoming all the aptitude of CIRCM right into a small package deal gives the US Military enhanced functionality with out compromising their mission.”

As described by the Military, CIRCM is a part of a collection of infrared countermeasures that additionally features a Missile Warning System (MWS) and an Improved CounterMeasure Dispenser (ICMD) for flares and chaff. The Military’s present MWS is the Frequent Missile Warning System (CMWS) with the third-generation digital management unit (ECU), which is accountable for detecting and declaring on an IR risk. CIRCM, nevertheless, doesn’t require a particular MWS system and is ready to work with many various sensors, in accordance with the operational necessities.

U.S. Military AH-64E Apache helicopter from 1st Battalion, a hundred and first Aviation Regiment, Assault Helicopter Battalion, hooked up to the thirty sixth Fight Aviation Brigade, lands aboard the united statesLewis B. Puller within the Persian Gulf, Nov. 9, 2022. (U.S. Military photograph by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Manuel Molina, 3-142nd AHB Public Affairs Consultant) [Author’s note: the LIMWS system, equipped with CIRCM, is visible on the stub wing’s tip]

This suite ought to be the Restricted Interim Missile Warning System (LIMWS), talked about within the FY22 Director Operational Take a look at and Analysis (DOT&E) report. LIMWS has been already put in on AH-64E Apache Guardian helicopters in particular sponsons on the tip of the stub wings and ahead deployed within the Center East a minimum of since October 2022. Whereas up to now LIMWS was solely seen on the AH-64E, the report mentions that it’s getting used additionally for a similar mission units of the UH-60 and CH-47 however just isn’t identified by which type it has been put in on these helicopters. Anyway, UH-60M geared up with CIRCM had been photographed along with LIMWS-equipped Apaches in Center East.

The DOT&E report says that the LIMWS Fast Response Functionality (QRC) testing demonstrated ample system effectiveness and reliability to assist operations. LIMWS is a form-fit alternative for the CMWS, composed of a number of imaging two-color IR sensors, a system processor, and a detachable knowledge module. The brand new system operates within the IR spectrum, offering efficiency benefits over the older UV missile warning system it replaces.

A quick description of the CIRCM’s functioning may be discovered within the (unclassified) FY21 Military Plane Procurement Price range: “CIRCM receives an angular bearing handoff from the MWS, employs a pointing and monitoring system which acquires the handed-over risk and tracks the incoming missile throughout and after motor burnout. CIRCM jams the missile by utilizing modulated laser power within the missile seeker band, thus degrading the monitoring functionality of the missile and inflicting it to overlook the plane.”

The IOT&E 2020 report supplied some extra particulars, mentioning that concurrently with the handoff, the MWS processor continues to guage the doable risk to find out if it’s a actual risk or a false alarm. If the MWS declares the detection to be an precise risk, it notifies the aircrew by audio alerts and a visible show on the plane Multi-Perform Show within the cockpit, whereas additionally releasing flares as a countermeasure.

Some historical past background

Northrop Grumman Company introduced in 2009 the formation of a strategic alliance with SELEX Galileo, which is now part of Leonardo, to compete for the U.S. Military’s Frequent Infrared Countermeasures (CIRCM) program. For this joint venture SELEX Galileo supplied its Financial Compact Light-weight Pointer-Tracker System (ECLIPSE), however it’s unknown if this element was changed because the system advanced to a fifth technology DIRCM.

Northrop Grumman and Leonardo have a long-standing cooperation on this sector, courting again to the 90s with the AN/AAQ-24 Nemesis DIRCM. “Northrop Grumman is proud to have our companions Leonardo DRS working with us on CIRCM,” mentioned Neel. “We do have a protracted historical past with Leonardo that’s benefiting each firms. Due to this partnership, we’re capable of deliver the very best answer based mostly off our particular person and our shared information.”

Northrop Grumman itself has a protracted historical past in creating and manufacturing IR countermeasures programs, with over 50 years of expertise. Clearly, the teachings discovered from earlier merchandise, such because the AN/AAQ-24(V)N Massive Plane Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) already employed by the US Army, additionally helped the event of CIRCM.

In 2011 Northrop Grumman introduced that Daylight Options joined the venture, offering its Solaris Quantum Cascade Laser (QCL)-based system into the Northrop Grumman providing for the CIRCM program. A 12 months later, the U.S. Military has awarded a contract for the CIRCM technical demonstration program to the Northrop Grumman, SELEX Galileo and Daylight Options crew, beneath which they had been to ship eight units of check {hardware} along with three full ship units.

The primary set was delivered in 2013 and joined the Military’s 21-month analysis, growth, check and analysis program that additionally included reliability testing, missile jamming checks and flight checks on an Military platform. Few months later, CIRCM accomplished the preliminary design assessment, surpassing this system’s weight and electrical energy necessities, and the protection of flight testing, which authorised the system for operation beneath stressing flight situations.

The jammer head of the CIRCM system. (Picture: Northrop Grumman)

In 2014, CIRCM accomplished a six-week check marketing campaign on a UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, demonstrating its capabilities whereas towards captive missile seekers and whereas subjected to rigorous situations consultant of operational environments. A 12 months later, having efficiently accomplished the whole government-designed check plan, Northrop Grumman was awarded a engineering and manufacturing growth and low-rate preliminary manufacturing contract for CIRCM.

The primary CIRCM system beneath this contract was delivered in 2016, with Northrop Grumman and the Military persevering with the event till Milestone C was achieved in 2018, marking the tip of the event and testing section and enabling the start of manufacturing and deployment. A 12 months later, CIRCM was examined once more on UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters based mostly out of Fort Hood, Texas, throughout occasions designed to check the system beneath an operationally life like fight surroundings with life like threats supplied by a Multi-Spectral Sea and Land Goal Simulator (MSALTS).

A month later, Northrop Grumman has obtained a brand new contract award for CIRCM, which additionally entered the primary spherical of Preliminary Operational Take a look at and Analysis (IOT&E). In 2021, CIRCM efficiently accomplished the second section of IOT&E, quickly defeating all threats throughout a mess of situations, and was declared operationally appropriate, efficient and prepared for full-rate manufacturing.

Following the completion of the IOT&E, the Military awarded Northrop Grumman a five-year, indefinite supply/ indefinite amount (IDIQ) contract for full-rate manufacturing of the CIRCM system. In November 2022, CIRCM lastly reached the IOC, after set up on greater than 100 helicopters.

The Aviationist wish to thank Northrop Grumman’s spokesperson Sam Waltz and the corporate’s crew of specialists for the assistance supplied within the preparation of this text, whereas ensuring additionally that it might not compromise delicate data that might preclude the protection of the plane and crews using this superior expertise.

Stefano D’Urso is a contract journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based mostly in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he is additionally learning to realize a Grasp Diploma in Aerospace Engineering. Digital Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT methods utilized to the world of navy operations and present conflicts are amongst his areas of experience.


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