The US Army has finally launched the source selection process for the common infrared countermeasures contract after a four-month delay.
The CIRCM tender is expected to draw bids from the army's two largest infrared countermeasures suppliers - Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems - as well as independent bids from new challengers, including ITT, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.
Two companies will be selected to compete in a technology demonstration phase, with the winner likely to receive a follow-on contract to finish development and launch production.
The demonstration phase is scheduled to last 20 months. The first prototypes will be scheduled for delivery after nine months, and a preliminary design review should be completed five months later, according to army acquisition documents.
The CIRCM will replace a wide range of defensive systems installed on thousands of helicopters and tiltrotors in the US military's fleet, as well as becoming a major player on the export market.
The army is asking for a lighter and more reliable solution than two current models - Northrop's directional infrared countermeasures and BAE's advanced tactical system. The complete system, including lasers and pointer-trackers, is required to weigh no more than 39kg (85lb).
In response, the competitors are proposing to introduce new advances in infrared countermeasures technology, such as fibre-optic connections between sensors and jam heads.
Northrop is teamed with Selex Galileo to integrate the latter's Eclipse micro-pointer/tracker with a Viper laser. BAE is offering an advanced system based on its Boldstroke technology initiative.
Among the new challengers, ITT is offering components recently developed in projects funded by the US Air Force Research Laboratory. Raytheon, meanwhile, has adapted the AIM-9X air-to-air missile's seeker into a product called Quiet Eyes. Finally, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control is offering a quantum cascade laser supplied by Daylight Solutions.