Knowing your team “has your back” is reassuring on any level, but it carries even more significance for warfighters embarking on a mission. For pilots flying through contested airspace, where hidden enemy missiles below are designed to destroy what’s flying above, a well-established, advanced survivability system silently protects warfighters.

“I saw the plume, the corkscrew trail, and then [an incoming enemy missile] took a sharp turn and crashed into the ground.”

That is what Kyle Freundl recalls from a conversation he had with one pilot telling him about how a product within Northrop Grumman’s Infrared Countermeasures (IRCM) suite protected against an incoming missile fired at his aircraft during a combat mission. Prior to his current role at Northrop Grumman, Freundl served in the U.S. Air Force as an aircraft survivability and systems engineer. His mission then and now covers the same vital key points.

“Our job is to save lives and bring our warfighters home. Their mission success is our success,” said Freundl.

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The U.S. Army continues investing in CIRCM’s always on technology, pictured above the rear wheels of the CH-47. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

Common Infrared Countermeasures System

IRCM refers to a variety of systems designed to protect aircraft from infrared homing (IR) missiles. These missiles are designed to lock onto heat, such as emissions from aircraft engines, and steer the missile toward that energy. IR missiles are increasingly abundant and dangerous, posing a major threat to military aircraft.

Northrop Grumman has yielded five generations of IRCM protection, including today’s CIRCM system – the lightweight, next-generation aircraft survivability system that’s a trusted technology of the U.S. Army and approved for export.

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Pioneering across five generations of IRCM technology, CIRCM (pictured far right) is the latest advancement in aircraft survivability. (Photo Credit: Northrop Grumman)

Northrop Grumman recently received a $147 million production order – its fourth yearly CIRCM award from the U.S. Army – and has delivered on each commitment by providing all systems on time. After delivering the 500th CIRCM shipset, Northrop Grumman has another 336 on order – bringing this always on, mostly unseen technology to more than 800 aircraft in total.

“Our latest CIRCM production award is a recognition of our continued partnership with the U.S. Army and builds on our on-time delivery momentum,” said Bob Gough, vice president of aircraft survivability, Northrop Grumman. “Since reaching full-rate CIRCM production, we have driven performance and speed in delivering on our commitments to meet the Army’s needs.”

Where CIRCM excels is meeting the challenging size, weight and power restrictions of smaller airframes — specifically rotary wing, tiltrotor and small fixed-wing aircraft. CIRCM technology has provided more than 30,000 operational flight hours of safe passage across the U.S. Army’s AH-64, CH-47 and UH-60 aircraft.

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CIRCM systems, such as the one pictured on this aircraft, are fielded to protect warfighters. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

Leading Legacy of Advanced Technology

Northrop Grumman has protected warfighters against infrared threats for more than 50 years, with IRCM products installed on more than 1,500 aircraft of 80 types. “CIRCM is a technology rooted in performance and poised for a future of continued growth,” said Gough. “We are committed to ensuring we meet the Army’s demands for CIRCM system availability, quality and supportability.”