DIRCM & SIGINT market outlook

WASHINGTON. The market for directed infrared countermeasures (DIRCM) systems and airborne signals intelligence (SIGINT) systems and programs is healthy and growing according to research from Teal Group.

The market has risen over the past 10 years with Northrop Grumman’s (Large Aircraft IR Counter Measures) for C-5s, C-17s, C-130s, and other large aircraft, says Dr. David L. Rockwell, in his latest monthly update of Teal Group’s “Military Electronics Briefing (MEB)" competitive intelligence service. The large platforms, the urgent operational need, and the pioneering nature of LAIRCM have all contributed to high per-aircraft costs, he says. But LAIRCM’s procurement peak was reached in Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 with $486 million in U.S. Air Force funding – dropping to only $13 million in FY 2015. Funding will recover somewhat for Phase II upgrades, but then will drop again.

“Instead, new programs, announced, unannounced and speculative, will lead to recovery of the DIRCM market," Rockwell says. "Northrop Grumman won Common IRCM () EMD in August 2015, and test production systems are now being funded, but CIRCM still stands exactly where the previous “universal” DIRCM – BAE Systems’ now-dead Advanced Threat IRCM (ATIRCM) – did more than a decade ago. The same promise [was made] for thousands of systems, but by late 2016 we have still not seen any CIRCM production. ATIRCM itself was publicly procured for fewer than 100 U.S. Army .

“Thus, new opportunities have appeared again," he continues. "Despite claiming dedication to the joint CIRCM program, the Navy in fact has funded its own Assault DIRCM (ADIRCM)somewhat on the sly – developed by DRS Technologies and Daylight Solutions – with unexpected FY 17 OCO procurement funding of $27.5 million for 12 systems to be installed in 2017-18.”

Teal Group analysts say they believe the DIRCM market is still wide open, with at least three producers ready today with alternatives to Northrop’s “common” CIRCM.

“We discuss and forecast a speculative future low-cost DIRCM & MWS System – to be worth billions of dollars for thousands of small and mid-sized fixed and rotary-wing aircraft,” Rockwell notes. “If any firm, even a non-traditional non-defense prime, provides a true $1-2 million DIRCM system – as long sought – CIRCM will see future production numbers shrink drastically, or collapse entirely like ATIRCM. With $1 million or more of per-aircraft A-kit funding hidden in other lines, CIRCM is not the $1.2 million-unit cost system often believed (already $1.5 million with B-kit installation and initial support costs…).”

Other speculative future programs forecast include a major Future Fast Jet DIRCM production program, Rockwell says. In August 2016, the Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman with a $39.3 million, five-year contract for development efforts as part of the STRAFE (SHiELD [Self-protect Demonstrator] Turret Research in Aero-Effects) Advanced Technology Demonstration (ATD), for a laser-based DIRCM system for pod-mounting on fast jets.

At some point in the next decade, a major Fast Jet DIRCM procurement for U.S. and international 4th generation fighters (F-15s, F-16s, F/A-18s) could become a multi-billion-dollar ongoing program – just as LAIRCM was for large aircraft.

Forecasts for numerous current and future airborne Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) programs are expected to be worth billions of dollars over the next decade, according to Teal. In February 2016, the Army finally provided funding for completing development of BAE Systems’ Tactical SIGINT Payload (TSP) for the Army Gray Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle (). TSP and Northrop Grumman’s Airborne SIGINT Payload (ASIP), now aboard the Air Force Global Hawk UAV and manned Army Guardrail aircraft, will undoubtedly be offered for our Future MALE UAV SIGINT System forecast lines, they say.

“But it is the U.S. Navy that offers the most interesting speculative developments, as nearly all its UAV SIGINT has undoubtedly gone classified,” Rockwell notes. “Beyond Sierra Nevada Corp.'s small AN/ZLQ-1 ESM system for the MQ-4C Triton, we evaluate and forecast a Follow-On Triton SIGINT Sensor, as well as a likely much larger Future Triton SIGINT Suite, possibly already in development for a SIGINT-only Triton, to be worth more than $100 million per year in funding, similar to Germany’s “Euro Hawk” SIGINT UAV program.”