Late last month, the US Army announced soldiers from Fort Hood, Texas’ 1st Cavalry Division were deployed to the Redstone Test Center in Alabama to both test and begin learning how to utilize the Black Hawk helicopter’s new Common Infrared Countermeasures (CIRCM) system in combat.
"It is imperative the aircrews have a clear understanding of how to employ the system correctly before we send them up in the air to conduct missions," said Dave Rogers, CIRCM assistant test officer with the US Army’s Operational Test Command's Aviation Test Directorate, said in the release.
Designed specifically for medium-size fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft, the CIRCM system was developed by Northrop Gumman by way of a $35.4 million engineering and manufacturing contract from the US Army in 2015.
The countermeasure system’s primary function is to defend aircraft from man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), which the US Department of State defines as a top national security priority due to their availability on the black market.
According to Northrop Grumman, the CIRCM system integrates with the pilot’s alert system and uses lasers to confuse incoming missiles fired from MANPADS and make them veer off course.
The release claims crews, made up of aviators, Army civilians, contractors and aircrews from the Army’s Redstone Test Center (RTC) Aviation Flight Test Directorate, carried out eight test mission which yielded more than 40 hours of data.
"We designed the test events to cover all the potential environments that aircrews may find themselves in," Chief Warrant Officer 4 Toby Blackmon explained in the Army release.
Lt. Peter Zeidler, another test officer, said the Black Hawk tests made a “positive impact on unit readiness” and felt the service members’ experience will put them “ahead of the curve” when it comes time to put the training into practice.
Due to its lightweight nature, the system is expected to replace the heavier Advanced Threat Infrared Countermeasures (ATIRCM) system currently fitted on CH-47 Chinooks.
On Wednesday, the Pentagon awarded Northrop Grumman a $481,576,687 contract to improve the CIRCM’s quick reaction capability. The agreement calls for the project to be completed by July 30, 2024.