Thousands at Robins work to keep the Air Force’s cargo aircraft maintained, while one small unit works to make sure the vulnerable, slow-moving planes don’t get shot out of the sky.
In the 566th Electronics Maintenance Squadron a group of 15 technicians, including Northrop Grumman employees, work on the Large Aircraft Infrared Counter-Measure system, more commonly known as LAIRCM.
First deployed in 1996 on a small number of aircraft, the system has been effective in protecting planes from the threat of shoulder-fired missiles in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Jeff Lamb, the avionics and instruments supervisor in the squadron. Although there are more parts, the heart of the system is a processor that detects missiles and a laser turret under the plane that shoots out beams when there is a threat.
The laser confuses the missile and directs it away from the aircraft. Previously planes used a system that sent out a spray of flares around the plane to direct the heat-seeking missiles away. It’s also a fully automated system, so pilots don’t need to activate it. Previously it didn’t even alert pilots of a missile threat, but pilots didn’t like the idea of not knowing when a missile was coming at them, so an alert warning was added.