Ukraine War Prompts US Army to Equip Apaches With Laser Protection System

The US Army’s AH-64E Apache attack helicopters have been equipped with a laser protection system against short-range, heat-seeking missiles.

Called the Common Infrared Countermeasures (CIRCM), the new system defends against surface-to-air missiles and those from man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS).

The CIRCM entered into full-rate production in 2021 and achieved operational capability in November 2022.

The US Army initially planned to install the system on CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift helicopters, but photo evidence showed Apaches carrying the laser protection system.

According to several reports, the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine prompted the US to integrate the defense system into the Boeing-made aircraft.

Washington has reportedly seen MANPADS from Kyiv successfully neutralizing low-flying Russian drones and helicopters, including its Ka-52 Alligators.

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Northrop Grumman’s CIRCM is designed to integrate defensive infrared countermeasures into existing military aircraft.

It consists of a pointer-tracker unit, infrared laser, and system processor unit to effectively engage incoming targets.

Common Infrared Countermeasures
The Common Infrared Countermeasures system. Photo: Northrop Grumman

The system works alongside the Common Missile Warning System, which “sees” the missile and alerts pilots through audio and visual cues.

“CIRCM is the lightweight solution to replace the highly combat effective Advanced Threat Infrared Countermeasures system, enabling integration of laser based infrared countermeasures onto smaller aircraft,” the US Army Acquisition Support Center states on its website.

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