NASHVILLE, Tenn. — BAE Systems has long been a supplier of threat warning systems on current U.S. Army helicopters, but as those systems age, it is developing a next-generation warning system that can detect a threat with a higher degree of certainty.

While the Army hasn’t launched a competition yet, it put out a request for information last year asking industry to come forward with advanced threat-detection system technologies. And the service is working toward the goal of reaching low-rate production of its next-generation Common Infrared Countermeasure system in fiscal 2018.

CIRCM will defend against infrared missiles using a direct laser-jamming capability when integrated with an entire suite of aircraft survivability equipment including the current threat detection system — BAE’s common missile warning system, or CMWS.

The Army unveiled slides late last year that revealed its path forward for equipment modernization it has planned in the near-term, midterm and far-term.

Within those slides, the Army said it was planning in the near term to launch a science and technology effort to work on advanced protection for aircraft. Along with that, CMWS and the radar warning receiver would be upgraded, and the service would field a CMWS and an Advanced Threat Infrared Countermeasures, or ATIRCM, system replacement with the Advanced Threat Detection System and CIRCM.

Farther afield, around the time the Army’s Future Vertical Lift helicopters are expected to hit the skies, the service will match that with new advanced threat detection and countermeasure systems for both Future Vertical Lift and legacy aircraft.

And BAE plans to remain a critical player in advanced threat-warning systems into the future.

BAE is doing the development work now ahead of the curve as it anticipates the Army’s need for more advanced systems down the road, Chris Austin, the company’s threat management solutions program director, told Defense News.

The company has a long history with the Army when it comes to providing helicopter survivability technology having been the manufacturers of both ATIRCM and CMWS.

The 3-Dimensional Advanced Warning System, or 3DAWS, represents a suite of products, Austin said, that is composed of two major parts: a traditional passive missile warning system and a 3-D tracker.

A passive missile warning system, as they are designed today, are able to detect "two dimensions" of a possible threat — the azimuth and elevation — Austin said. "You can accurately say it’s going left or right and up or down."

CMWS — which will be upgraded with two-color infrared detection capability through an effort announced last week with DRS Technology — is an example of a passive missile warning system, according to Austin. The upgrade will provide a longer range for the detection capability.

The 3-D tracker is the new element in the system, Austin said, which is able to determine if an object is incoming or outgoing, providing range information as a third dimension.

The passive missile warning capability within the system is designed to cue the 3-D radar to officially determine if something is an actual threat with more certainty, he added.

The system will be designed to integrate with current and future countermeasure systems. Traditional countermeasures are such things as flares and laser-based jammers. But in the future, the expectation is countermeasure systems will have both "soft" and "hard" kill capabilities from damaging a threat to completely destroying it.

"A lot of those technologies are in development right now," Austin said. "We wanted our 3DAWS system to be prepared for those when they come on board, and not only work with existing legacy measures but be prepared for that because especially when you look at hard-kill countermeasures you want to make sure that, one, it’s definitely something coming at you, but also you need to track and guide in a lot of those systems," he said. "This radar will allow you to do the tracking for a hard or soft kill system in the future as well."

Developed internally, 3DAWS is in the testing and integration development phase, Austin said. BAE has prototypes designed to fit in a helicopter and is in the process of performing full integration with passive systems and testing at ranges when given the opportunity, Austin said.

While BAE has been a supplier on the countermeasure side of the house for a long time, it lost the Army’s CIRCM competition to Northrop Grumman in 2015. BAE protested the contract award but quietly withdrew that protest.

Analysts have since questioned whether it’s completely over for BAE systems when it comes to supplying countermeasure systems. The initial order is for 71 systems, bringing the total engineering and manufacturing development contract total to $140 million, if all options are exercised. Analysts were left scratching their heads as to why the Army wrote the contract to contain options in the engineering and manufacturing development phase, but theorized it might leave an opening for BAE.

Although countermeasures aren’t in Austin’s department, he offered: "When we are talking about the aircraft survivability market, this is where we are definitely staying in this game, particularly on the detection side, we are looking toward the future."