On Wednesday, the Department of Defense announced it has awarded Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC) a $160 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to procure hardware and support for the Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures System (LAIRCM).

LAIRCM  began under the Department of the Navy. Strangely, however, DoD is describing the instant contract as coming out of the Air Force's budget; but the current award is being run out of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

LAIRCM uses Northrop's high-intensity Viper Laser to target and blind incoming heat-seeking missiles, to disable them before they can engage an aircraft on which it is installed. It is currently in operational use upon Sikorsky CH-53E helicopters, but plans are to install it also upon many different kinds of fixed-wing transport aircraft, such as C-17 and C-130 transports , as well as helicopters.

Low-end estimates  of the system's cost suggest that each LAIRCM system installed upon an aircraft will cost at least $3 million. Northrop has estimated, however, that a similar system being researched back in 2008 -- then known as the "Guardian" -- could cost as little as $1 million per system when produced at scale.

Northrop has been very active in the anti-missile countermeasures space of late. Last month, the company announced it had delivered demonstration versions of its new Common Infrared Countermeasures missile defense system to the U.S. Army ahead of schedule.