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AN/AAQ-24 Directional Infrared Countermeasures (DIRCM)

The AN/AAQ-24 Directional Infrared Countermeasures (DIRCM) program is one of the US Special Operations Command’s (USSOCOM’s) highest priority acquisition programs. This urgently needed aircraft self-protection suite will provide fast and accurate threat detection, processing, tracking, and countermeasures to defeat current and future generation infrared missile threats. DIRCM is designed for installation on a wide range of rotary and fixed-wing aircraft. For USSOCOM, the system will be installed on all of Air Force Special Operations Command’s (AFSOCS’s) AC–130 gunships and MC–130 Combat Talon aircraft.

Growth to counter more sophisticated threats is incorporated into the program by providing a path that allows for direct insertion of a laser-based countermeasure when an all-band laser is developed. These capabilities made the DIRCM system, and others like it, strong candidates during USSOCOM’s initial evaluation of the options available.

After careful consideration of the alternatives, USSOCOM initiated the DIRCM program as a cooperative acquisition with the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence (U.K. MoD) under Section 27 of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) (“Quayle” Authority). Section 27 of the AECA authorizes the Department of Defense (DoD) to enter into cooperative projects with allies and friendly countries for cooperative research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E) or joint production (including follow-on support) of defense articles, concurrent production of a defense article that was jointly developed by the United States and allied or friendly countries, or U.S. procurement of a defense article or service from an allied or friendly country.

Given the program’s urgency and a strong desire on the part of the participants to establish a firm foundation for the program’s success, both staffs felt the best means to keep the negotiations on track was to leave out politically charged items such as cost and work share arrangements. Within the framework of the “Quayle” Authority, the DIRCM MOU allows the U.K. MoD to competitively award a contract on behalf of USSOCOM. The U.K. MoD owns and manages the contract with the DIRCM prime contractor, Northrop Grumman Electronics and Systems Integration International, Inc., (NGESII) Rolling Meadows, IL.

The DIRCM program is unusual in that it is one of the first cooperative development and production projects undertaken by a U.S. agency wherein the allied country owns the contract with industry. In addition, it may be the first program where the U.K. MoD has led a collaborative procurement with the United States in which the prime contractor is one of the major U.S. defense contractors. Total U.S. programmatic cost savings, documented in the program’s 1996 David Packard Acquisition Excellence Award narrative, amount to $80 million.

The U.K. MoD owns and manages the DIRCM contract, currently valued at over $400 million for joint U.K./ USSOCOM content as well as United Kingdom- and USSOCOM-unique requirements. The contract is to develop, produce, install, field, and sustain approximately 131 DIRCM systems on the U.K. fixed- and rotary-wing fleet and 59 systems on the AFSOC AC/MC–130 fleet. The fixed-price (FP) basic contract, awarded under a total systems performance responsibility (TSPR) philosophy, is for the joint engineering, manufacturing, and development (EMD) phase and U.K. production and sustainment phases, and includes priced options for USSOCOM’s production and sustainment phases. The MOU to enter into a cooperative program between the United States and the United Kingdom was signed in June 1994 and the EMD contract with Northrop Grumman was signed in March 1995.

The DIRCM program manager is a U.K. Ministry of Defence (MoD) civilian. There are U.S. and U.K. joint program offices (JPOs), with each office headed by a deputy joint program manager (DJPM). The USSOCOM JPO at MacDill Air Force Base, FL, is staffed by a handful of military and civilian managers, augmented by a team of contractor technical support personnel. The MoD JPO in Bristol, England, is staffed by several full-time U.K. civil servant managers and one USSOCOM civil servant, augmented by off-site specialized engineering support.

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