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The U.S. Army’s next-generation Northrop Grumman protection system for its fleet of helicopters has been cleared into full production, according to a Pentagon announcement on April 30.

The military has awarded Northrop a nearly $ 1 billion contract for the production of the Common Infrared Countermeasures program, known as CIRCM, with an estimated completion date of April 29, 2026. Service will begin at equip its aviation fleet with the system starting with the UH-60M Black Hawk Utility Helicopter.

Northrop has already delivered 100 units to the military.

The company won the CIRCM construction contract in 2015 following a head-to-head competition with BAE Systems. BAE and Northrop were selected from four competitors – including Raytheon and ITT Exelis – to continue technology development efforts in 2013.

BAE Systems protested the award, but quietly withdrew its protest after reaching a deal with the military. The service did not disclose details of the settlement.

Once Northrop was able to resume work on the program, following the protest, the military said it expected to make a full-capacity production decision in FY2020 after a test initial operational and evaluation during fiscal year 2019.

An Army spokesperson told Defense News in January 2020 that it has completed the test and needs to make a full-capacity production decision in the summer of 2020, which would allow the program to reach its initial operational capacity in 2021.

But by the end of the summer, that schedule had been pushed back with a full-capacity production decision expected in the second quarter of fiscal year ’21.

“This was pushed to the right so that the FRP’s decision could align with the completion of our contract negotiations with NGC,” Brandon Pollachek, a spokesperson for the program office where CIRCM resides, told Defense News. “The previous decision timeline on the FRP was to take place prior to the completion of NGC FRP negotiations. This decision to align the completed contract negotiation with the Missile Defense Agency’s FRP decision was intended to ensure that the maximum amount of cost data could be understood by all key stakeholders and is more usual with practice. standard acquisition.

He added that there was “currently no operational risk with the pending decision due to the acquisition of more [low-rate initial production] systems for the first operational unit. “

According to the military, the CIRCM conducted 2,303 open-air flight test tests on operational aircraft and also conducted a logistics demonstration.

At White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, CIRCM passed 12 free flight tests against single threats, four successful flight tests against two threats at a time, and a first-ever loss against four simultaneous threats, the service reported. .

The 1st Air Cavalry Brigade is the first equipped unit.

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