Air National Guard To Test Anti-Missile System On KC-135


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Air National Guard To Test Anti-Missile System On KC-135

By Daniel Baxter

January 18, 2011 - Northrop Grumman and the Air National Guard have initiated modifications to a KC-135 air refueling aircraft in preparation for the Operational Utility Evaluation of the company's Guardian anti-missile system. 

The Guardian system incorporates the company's proven AN/AAQ-24(V) infrared countermeasures defensive aid system in a pod-based configuration.

The AN/AAQ-24 is currently installed on over 500 fixed and rotary wing platforms for the U.S. military, foreign heads of state and allied countries.  

"The Guardian system is ideal for protecting legacy aircraft such as the KC-135. The pod is easily transferred from one aircraft to another in about 30 minutes, making IRCM protection a role-fit option, with fewer systems required to protect the fleet," said Carl Smith, vice president of infrared countermeasures for Northrop Grumman's Land and Self Protection Systems Division. "The first phase of the evaluation is to determine the suitability of the pod while on the aircraft with respect to its mission."

There are currently more than 400 KC-135 aircraft in service as airborne refueling platforms. Modifications to the aircraft to accommodate the Guardian system commenced on Nov. 11, 2010 at Forbes Field in Topeka, Kan. Comprehensive ground testing began on Jan. 12, 2011 with follow-on flight testing to begin on Jan. 19, 2011. The Operational Utility Evaluation is scheduled for completion in mid-March of 2011.  

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

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a leading global security company whose 120,000 employees provide innovative systems, products, and solutions in aerospace, electronics, information systems, shipbuilding and technical services to government and commercial customers worldwide. Please visit for more information.


The Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker is an aerial refueling military aircraft. It and the Boeing 707 airliner were developed from the Boeing 367-80 prototype. The KC-135 was the US Air Force's first jet powered refueling tanker and replaced the KC-97 Stratotanker. The Stratotanker was initially tasked to refuel strategic bombers, but was used extensively in the Vietnam War and later conflicts such as Desert Storm to extend the range and endurance of Air Force, Navy and Marine tactical fighters and bombers. 


Serving with the United States Air Force since 1957, it is one of just six military fixed wing aircraft with over 50 years of continuous service with its original operator. Supplemented by the larger KC-10, complete replacement is still under study by the Air Force. Despite increased maintenance costs, studies conclude many of the aircraft could be flown until 2040, with ages reaching 80 years before reaching lifetime flying hour limits. 

Like its sibling, the commercial Boeing 707 jetliner, the KC-135 was derived from the Boeing 367-80 jet transport "proof of concept" demonstrator, which was commonly called the "Dash-80". As such the KC-135 is similar, but has a narrower fuselage and is shorter than the 707. Boeing gave the future KC-135 tanker the initial designation Model 717.

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