The United States wants to quickly install advanced
missile warning and defense systems on military transports flying in
dangerous spots throughout the Middle East and Africa.
In May, suspected Al Qaida insurgents fired a Soviet-origin SA-7
surface-to-air missile toward an unidentified U.S. military jet in Saudi
Arabia. The missile missed the U.S. plane, which was taking off from the
Prince Sultan Air Base, Middle East Newsline reported.
Officials said the Bush administration has ordered accelerated
procurement of missile warning and defense systems for military transports.
They said the systems are meant to defend against Soviet-origin infrared
missiles used by Al Qaida and other insurgency groups.
The Defense Department has awarded a $7.2 million contract to Northrop
Grumman Systems to ensure accelerated deployment of a countermeasure systems
for the C-17 air transport. The contract calls for a project to develop an
interim infrared countermeasure system for U.S. Special Operations transport
aircraft until more advanced equipment is ready.
Officials said the project was prompted by new requirements by the Air
Mobility Command for Infrared Countermeasures capability. The command
called for the design, development, testing and delivery of infrared
countermeasure capability for the C-17 as rapidly as possible.
The Northrop Grumman system is said to use an infrared beam to
automatically divert a heat-seeking missile. A Pentagon statement said the
interim project calls for a single transmitter configuration of an infrared
countermeasure system for up to 12 C-17s. The systems would
consist of two video processors, laser transmitters, six ultraviolet missile
warning subsystems sensors.
Officials said the project also calls for the training of aircrews and
maintainers in the interim countermeasure system. They said the contract is
expected to be completed by March 2004.