Northrop Grumman has started tests of an anti-man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS) infrared countermeasures pod onboard its Scaled Composites WhiteKnight aircraft in Mojave, California.
WhiteKnight is acting as a "surrogate UAV" for the tests, says Jack Pledger, director of infrared countermeasures program at Northrop Grumman's business development unit. Northrop plans to eventually transition the WhiteKnight's payload to the RQ-4 Global Hawk, a high-altitude, long endurance UAV.
For the testing on WhiteKnight, Northrop modified one of the countermeasures pods that has been flight tested by FedEx for use at high altitudes in the Guardian countermeasure system.
Goals of the test include verifying the pod's altitude capabilities ahead of advance demonstrations next month in which Northrop hopes to demonstrate the pod's capability of detecting a missile launch and, "put energy on the target from high altitude", says Pledger.
Northrop was contracted by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to conduct the tests as part of its Project Chloe programme, which was created from a Congressional directive for the department to examine multiple approaches to protect commercial aircraft against MANPADS.
WhiteKnight was originally built as the launch aircraft for SpaceShipOne, and this is the fourth follow-on which has utilized the aircraft since the completion of its original mission.