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Guardian Anti-Missile System Flight-Tested On A KC-135

An up-close view of Northrop Grumman's Guardian pod installed on an Air National Guard 190th Air Refueling Wing KC-135 aircraft.
by Staff Writers
Rolling Meadows IL (SPX) Mar 09, 2011
Northrop Grumman, in partnership with the Air National Guard's 190th Air Refueling Wing (ARW), has announced the completion of the first round of flight testing with the company's Guardian System anti-missile technology onboard a KC-135 air refueling aircraft.

"To date we have conducted airworthiness flight tests and several air refueling test sorties. The feedback from the flight test pilots has been overwhelmingly positive," said Col. Keith Lang, commander of the 190th ARW based at Forbes Field Air National Guard Base, Topeka, Kan.

"We are pleased at the partnership established with Northrop Grumman and remain encouraged that the attributes of the Guardian System will prove a viable option for providing aircraft protection without disruption to KC-135 missions. The KC-135 has flown in harm's way since Vietnam and the time is right to add this extremely important defense capability."

An advanced laser-based missile protection system, the Guardian System is designed to protect aircraft, crew and passengers from the advanced man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS).

The Guardian System consists of a multi-band laser pointer/tracker and an ultraviolet missile warning sensor. The system is contained almost entirely in a single pod that mounts to the underside of the fuselage. The Guardian System operates by detecting launched missiles and then directing a non-visible, eye-safe laser to the seeker head of the incoming missile, disrupting its guidance signals.

Planning for the Operational Utility Evaluation (OUE) began in early 2010 and on Nov. 17, the Air National Guard began modifying a KC-135 based on plans and drawings provided by Northrop Grumman. Flight trials on the modified aircraft began on Jan. 11, 2011, just 55 days later. OUE activities are scheduled through the second quarter of 2011 and include additional flights and system tests at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

"This remarkable flight trial achievement is a key milestone for both the Air National Guard and Northrop Grumman," said Carl Smith, vice president of infrared countermeasures for Northrop Grumman's Land and Self Protection Systems Division.

"The Northrop Grumman Guardian System leverages battle proven hardware and is ready for full rate production. We can make the Air National Guard the latest military service to benefit from our battle-proven infrared countermeasures technology by protecting KC-135 aircrews, expanding their mission capabilities."

The 190th ARW is home to nearly 1,000 airmen at Forbes Field. The 190th is a Air National Guard Wing assigned to the Air Force Air Mobility Command and flies the KC-135 air refueling aircraft in support of worldwide aerial refueling missions.

The 190th also has a state mission that includes emergency relief support during natural disasters, search and rescue operations, and support to civil defense authorities.

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