A U.S. Air National Guard’s KC-135 air refueling aircraft equipped with the Northrop Grumman Guardian Anti-Missile Defense System has completed air worthiness flight testing and will soon commence the Operational Utility Evaluation (OUE). The aircraft, operating with the 190th Air Refueling Wing (ARW) began flight testing on January 11, 2011 and is scheduled to continue the OUE activities through the second quarter of 2011, to include additional flights and system tests at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

Northrop Grumman's Guardian System installed on the fuselage of an Air National Guard 190th Air Refueling Wing KC-135 aircraft prior to flight testing from the Forbes Field Air National Guard Base, Topeka, Kan. (Photo: Northrop Grumman)
An up-close view of Northrop Grumman's Guardian pod installed on an Air National Guard 190th Air Refueling Wing KC-135 aircraft. (Photo: Northrop Grumman)

“Guardian will prove a viable option for providing aircraft protection without disruption to KC-135 missions. The KC-135 has flown in harm’s way since Vietnam and the time is right to add this extremely important defense capability” Said Col. Keith Lang, commander of the 190th ARW. “Guardian System leverages battle proven hardware and is ready for full rate production” said Carl Smith, vice president of infrared countermeasures for Northrop Grumman’s Land and Self Protection Systems Division. Preparing the aircraft to carry the Guardian kit was completed in 55 days. Similar attachments could be added to operational aircraft, enabling attachments of pods to aircraft operating in areas where MANPADS threats could be encountered. This concept of operation will enable the Air National Guard to maintain effective protection to its aircraft while deploying few pods only to the aircraft that require such protection.

An advanced laser-based missile protection system, the Guardian System is designed to protect aircraft, crew and passengers from the advanced man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS). The system 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.

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