The U.S. Air Force reported last week that Airmen from the 22nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron began testing the capabilities of the Large Aircraft Infrared Counter-Measures system on the Boeing’s KC-46 Pegasus next-gen tanker.
One aircraft is now equipped with a Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures, or LAIRCM, defensive system to protect the tanker from surface-launched Infrared (IR) guided missiles.
The LAIRCM is a directional, active IR jammer that is designed to defeat a wide range of ground-fired IR (heat-seeking) missiles. The system jams the infrared missile seekers through the sensor aperture, causing the missile to miss the intended target. LAIRCM automatically detects a missile launch, determines if it is a threat, and activates a high-intensity, laser-based countermeasure system to track and defeat the missile.
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“We tested the system to ensure electronic counter-measures were working as intended,” said Tech. Sgt. Spencer Balint, 22nd AMXS laser safety officer. “The KC-46 is designed to go deeper into combat zones that other tankers may not have been able to access before.”
Acquiring the LAIRCM, improves air refueling capabilities allowing the KC-46 to refuel in combat zones and deter enemy ordnance.
“This will benefit the KC-46 because it allows the aircraft to move one step further toward war and deployment readiness,” said Balint. “This creates the potential for us to perform aeromedical evacuations while equipped with self-defense systems to protect the aircraft.”
As LAIRCM systems testing for the KC-46 continues, it will benefit the Air Force and improve its capabilities to support air refueling operations worldwide.
Tech. Sgt. Spencer Balint, 22nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron laser safety officer, fires a laser into the Large Aircraft Infrared Counter-Measures system aboard the KC-46A Pegasus Aug. 11, 2020, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas.