The Air National Guard have initiated modifications to a KC-135 air refueling aircraft in preparation for the Operational Utility Evaluation of the Guardian directional missile countermeasure system developed by Northrop Grumman Corporation.
The Guardian development addressed a homeland security requirement to protect civil aircraft from man-portable air defense systems(MANPADS). said Carl Smith, vice president of infrared countermeasures for Northrop Grumman’s Land and Self Protection Systems Division, since the Guardian is designed as an ‘add-on’ system, it is also suitable for protecting more than 400 such legacy aircraft currently in servcie. The pod can be transferred from one aircraft to another in about 30 minutes, making IRCM protection a role-fit option, with fewer systems required to protect the fleet. Smith added that the first phase of the evaluation will determine the suitability of the pod for the mission. Modifications to the aircraft to accommodate the Guardian system commenced on Nov. 11, 2010 at Forbes Field in Topeka, Kan. Ground testing began on Jan. 12, 2011 and according to the test schedule, flight testing will begin in two days, with operational utility evaluation spanning over two months.
Guardian consists of a multi-band laser pointer/tracker and an ultraviolet missile warning sensor. The system is contained almost entirely in a single pod that mounts to the underside of the fuselage. Guardian operates by detecting launched missiles and then directing a non-visible, eye-safe laser to the seeker head of the incoming missile, disrupting its guidance signals. The system incorporates the AN/AAQ-24(V) operationally proven infrared countermeasures (defensive aid system) packed in a pod-based configuration. AN/AAQ-24 is currently installed on over 500 fixed and rotary wing platforms for the U.S. military, foreign heads of state and allied countries.