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171st Successfully Tests LAIRCM System

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Michael Fariss
  • 171st Air Refueling Wing

The 171st Air Refueling Wing tested the Large Aircraft Infrared Counter Measures (LAIRCM) Gen 3 missile defense system here on May 25, 2018. The LAIRCM is designed to protect the KC-135 Stratotanker and other aircraft from surface-launched Infrared (IR) guided missiles.

The LAIRCM is a directional, active IR jammer that is designed to defeat a wide range of ground-fired IR (heat-seeking) missiles. The system jams the infrared missile seekers through the sensor aperture, causing the missile to miss the intended target. LAIRCM automatically detects a missile launch, determines if it is a threat, and activates a high-intensity, laser-based countermeasure system to track and defeat the missile.

The KC-135 does not have system built-in missile defense systems like some other aircraft because traditionally they were out of range of high-threat areas. The LAIRCM Gen 3 system will allow airplanes without built in systems the safety and security to enter hot-spots around the globe.

“This is a step in the right direction,” said Senior Master Sgt. Jeffrey S. Rose, 171st Avionics Section Chief. “This will enable the KC-135 aircrew and aircraft the same protection afforded other large aircraft flying into situational danger.”

Since the 171st has the majority of KC-135 T-models in the Air National Guard, it was chosen as the LAIRCM article testing. KC-135 T-models are designed to carry different fuel than the aircraft itself uses. There are only 54 KC-135 T-models in the U.S. Air Force and the 171st has 16 of them.

“We were chosen due to the fact we are the only supertanker wing in the Guard and we have extra aircraft available,” explained Rose. “We tested the LAIRCM Gen 3 system for the KC-135 T-model and the 507th Air Refueling Wing was selected for the KC-135 R-model.”

The testing occurred over multiple sessions. Engineers from Northup Grumman and Tinker System Program Office oversaw the assessment. The trial runs were completed with minor altercations needed.

“The testing was extremely successful!” exclaimed Rose. “We are waiting for a production contract to be awarded and assets to be produced.”

Rose is excited to for the completion of the LAIRCM and remains optimistic it will be fairly soon.

“Hopefully, if all things go as planned, production can begin early 2019,” stated Rose.