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Viper Production Doubled

File image: MANPADS targetting.
by Staff Writers
Rolling Meadows, IL (SPX) Feb 25, 2010
Northrop Grumman has announced the company has more than doubled the production capacity for its Viper laser and pointer/tracker assembly, integral components for several different infrared countermeasures (IRCM) systems designed and produced for the U.S. and allied nations to protect aircraft from MANPADS (man portable air defense system) threats.

The Viper laser manufacturing capacity expansion began in mid-2008 at the company's Rolling Meadows, Ill. facility. Leveraging existing engineering documentation, manufacturing processes and capital equipment designs, the company quickly ordered materials while training laser technicians and manufacturing process personnel at the company's Apopka, Fla., facility.

In 2008 the Rolling Meadows team completed 77 lasers in just five months, including equipment set-up and training. In 2009, the team further increased manufacturing output with 400 lasers completing the manufacturing cycle at the new facility. In parallel, the Apopka facility produced 750 Viper lasers throughout 2009.

"We have invested a lot of energy and resources to develop our Viper laser supply chain while expanding our production capability to ensure state-of-the-art lasers are delivered to our troops in the the field in a timely manner," said Carl Smith, vice president of Infrared Countermeasures Programs at Northrop Grumman's Land and Self Protection Systems Division.

With the two Viper laser production facilities, Northrop Grumman now has a combined monthly capacity of greater than 180 infrared countermeasure lasers, twice the level that existed previously.

As a result, we are delivering these critical IRCM components ahead of contractual requirements and have approximately 50 percent capacity still available."

In addition to the Viper laser, Northrop Grumman has also significantly increased the monthly production output of miniature pointer tracker (MPT) assemblies by leveraging its co-manufacturing relationship with SELEX Galileo, a Finmeccanica Company. The two companies have worked closely for more than a decade producing greater than 1,000 small laser transmitter assemblies. The team is now co-producing the MPT assemblies.

"The co-manufacture of the MPT assemblies is running at a comfortable 35 Directional IRCM (DIRCM) transmitters per month with the ability to increase production to 50. The co-manufacturing team has delivered more than 600 MPT assemblies, and we are delivering three months ahead of contract now as a result of the added capacity from our strategic partner," Smith added.

"From the conclusion of the development phase right through to the delivery of the 1000th DIRCM transmitter, our collaborative partnership has been characterized by our shared commitment to incorporating improvements, which will deliver benefits to the warfighter," said Alex McLoughlin, Business Development manager for SELEX Galileo.

The Northrop Grumman-SELEX Galileo team looks to leverage its airborne DIRCM self protection design and manufacturing expertise in the pending competition for the U.S. Army's Common Infrared Countermeasures (CIRCM) program. A similar co-production approach is being taken for the next generation lightweight pointer tracker, designed specifically for the rotary wing market.

"The Northrop Grumman-SELEX Galileo team represents the most experienced laser IRCM development and production capability in the industry with five generations of DIRCM systems developed, and over 1,600 pointer trackers and 1,500 lasers produced for 450 aircraft installations on 50 different aircraft types including large and small fixed wing, rotary wing and tilt wing platforms," said Smith.

SELEX Galileo provides world class capabilities in surveillance, protection, tracking, targeting, avionics and imaging systems. With industrial presence in the UK, Italy and U.S., the company builds on 60 years of experience and market presence in more than 70 countries.

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