402nd MXW, Northrop Grumman seal LAIRCM deal

  • Published
  • By Wayne Crenshaw
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Robins will begin to take on the significant responsibility of maintaining an advanced weapons system that protects large cargo aircraft from attacks from shoulder-fired missiles.

On Dec. 11 Brig. Gen. Mark Atkinson, commander of the 402nd Maintenance Wing, and Doug Lawton, supply chain management vice president of Northrop Grumman Corp., signed a contract for Robins to perform work on the Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures system, commonly known as LAIRCM.

The system was designed by Northrop Grumman to counter the increasing threat that large, slow-moving cargo aircraft face from shoulder-fired missiles and missiles launched from vehicles. The system automatically detects the heat-seeking missiles and puts out a signal to confuse its path and direct it away from the aircraft.

"The agreement culminates a lot of hard work that has been done behind the scenes by our folks who generate business for us, who generate workload for us, who monitor our business operations," General Atkinson said. "Our folks who do that along with the contractor folks from Northrop Grumman have done a lot of work together. We've looked for the best way to provide the warfighter the LAIRCM capability. This agreement puts in concrete that commitment to each other, to continue that partnership and to continue to look for the most effective and efficient ways to provide this system to the warfighter."

Phil Robinson, Northrop Grumman's system manager for LAIRCM, said one result of the agreement is that the company will move its

LAIRCM hub from Fort Walton Beach, Fla., to the Warner Robins area. He also said the agreement means rather than Robins working only on LAIRCM systems on Air Force planes, it will also maintain the system on other planes throughout the U.S. Armed Forces that are equipped with the system.

"With the 402nd being part of the team, they offer affordable, operational availability for the long term," Mr. Robinson said.

Although the agreement won't mean a lot of additional workload in the near future - bringing only about 500 hours per year over the next two years - it will ramp up to approximately 8,500 hours in fiscal 2011. That's to give Robins a chance to get equipment in place and do training to prepare to do the work on a larger scale. General Atkinson said he believes the potential for additional workload is much greater than the current scheduled hours as the system becomes more widely used.

"It's a steady ramp up," he said. "What this does is this gets our foot in the door in a very positive way. It helps us establish initial capability. It gives us a nice, steady ramp-up plan, and the future holds that this system gives us great potential on almost every system that the Air Force operates. Where the workload is only a few hours to begin with, the potential workload for the Center is tremendous."

Northrop Grumman currently does most of the maintenance work on the system, General Atkinson said. A key reason behind the agreement, he said, is that the Air Force considers the system too important to rely solely on private industry for maintenance.

"It's always good business to have more than one provider," he said. "It's always good business when the Air Force can team or partner with the manufacturer of the system. These kinds of partnerships can really pull together the best we have to offer in terms of teamsmanship. We get the best of the Air Force organization and the best of Northrop Grumman organization and what comes out of the mix is very, very good."