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BAE Doesn't Rule Out Protest of Army CIRCM Contract

The U.S. subsidiary of British defense giant BAE Systems Plc hasn't ruled out a protest of the Army's decision to award Northrop Grumman Corp. a contract to develop new countermeasures for helicopters.

In a statement Tuesday to, Paul Roberts, a spokesman for BAE's electronic systems unit, said the company is reviewing its options. Notably, he didn't rule out the prospect of filing a protest with the Government Accountability Office, which arbitrates federal contract disputes.

"As the U.S. Department of Defense has announced, Northrop Grumman has been awarded a contract for Engineering Manufacture and Development of the Common Infrared Countermeasures (CIRCM) program," he said. "With more than 40 years of experience pioneering and delivering cost effective and technologically advanced aircraft survivability solutions, we are disappointed by this decision. We are currently considering all of our options as we prepare to be briefed by the Army about the decision."

The Army last week awarded Northrop a $35 million contract to develop next-generation countermeasure systems, which deploy flares and radar jammers to protect rotary-wing, tilt-rotor and fixed-wing aircraft from surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles. It was a significant win for Northrop, which was looking to expand its footprint in the market from the Navy and Air Force to include the Army.

"We have outlined a path to superior aircraft protection through highly reliable performance and operation, a commitment to modular open systems architecture, and the ability to seamlessly integrate new technology," Jeff Palombo, sector vice president and general manager of Northrop Grumman's Land & Self Protection Systems, said in a statement at the time. "We are proud to have been selected to work with the Army to ensure our warfighters have the most advanced aircraft protection for decades to come."

CIRCM is a lightweight version of the highly effective Advanced Threat Infrared Countermeasures, or ATIRCM, system made by BAE and installed on the CH-47F Chinook transport helicopter.

Barring any delays related to a protest, Northrop's system will undergo a critical design review in fiscal 2016 and complete engineering and manufacturing development by October 2017, according to the Army. While the contract amount is relatively small, the award includes potentially significant options for low-rate production of the systems beginning in 2017 and continuing into 2018.

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