Navy asks Leonardo DRS to Continue Building System to Defend Helicopters Against Infrared-Guided Missiles

March 21, 2024

By John Keller Military & Aerospace Electronics

Airborne missile warning experts at Leonardo DRS in Melbourne, Fla., will continue work on a system to defend U.S. Navy and Marine Corps combat helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft against vehicle-launched infrared-guided missiles and man-portable air-defense systems.

Officials of the Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md., announced a $23.5 million order to Leonardo DRS on Monday for additional work on the AN/AAQ-45 Distributed Aperture Infrared Countermeasures (DAIRCM) system.

The DAIRCM missile-defense system is for helicopters and other aircraft to defeat vehicle-launched infrared-guided missiles and man-portable air-defense systems. It also can detect laser-guided threats and hostile fire near helicopters.

The order includes non-recurring engineering to design, develop, integrate and test engineering development model weapon replaceable assemblies (WRA) and production representative model WRA for the AN/AAQ-45.

Navy aviation experts have tested the DAIRCM on the Sikorsky MH-60S utility helicopter and U.S. Marine Corps Bell AH-1Z attack helicopter. The system is an integrated suite of missile warning, laser warning, hostile fire indicator, and infrared countermeasures to protect helicopters from infrared missiles.

The system uses one centrally installed laser that feeds all of the beam directors. The threat warning sensor sends raw video and digital data information to the processor, which analyzes the data for an incoming missile, laser, or hostile fire threat.

If the processor detects a threat, it notifies the aircrew through the control interface unit and initiates the laser to direct electro-optical jamming energy at the incoming missile.

Helicopters equipped with the DAIRCM typically perform medium-lift logistical support, medical evacuation, search and rescue, armed escort, and attack operations.

The U.S. Air Force has demonstrated the AN/AAQ-45 DAIRCM aboard HH-60G Pave Hawk combat rescue helicopters in response to a joint urgent operational needs statement.

On this order Leonardo DRS will do the work in Dallas; San Diego; Fort Walton Beach, Fla.; and Melbourne, Fla., and should be finished by June 2025. For more information contact Leonardo DRS or Naval Air Systems Command.

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