Four industry teams vie to produce a more capable, next generation tactical jammer By Bill Carey
With the award of technology maturation contracts to four industry teams in July, the U.S. Navy NextGen Jammer (NGJ) program within two years will advance from competing concepts to prototypes of the electronic warfare sensor of the future. The same four contractors and industry partners participated in technology maturation trade studies awarded by the Navy in January 2009. The NGJ is intended to counter advanced, integrated air defenses, communications systems, datalinks and non-traditional threats. “Pretty much any electronic or RF system, any antenna is a potential target,” said one program participant. The NGJ will replace the long-serving and continuously updated ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming System on the Navy’s EA-6B Prowler and EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft. The Growler jams threat systems with up to five ALQ-99 pods mixed on underwing pylons to cover different frequency bands. With the EA-6B being retired by 2012, the modular NGJ will enter service on the Growler first, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter eventually and possibly a future unmanned aircraft platform. The competition to build the NGJ is spirited. Northrop Grumman upgrades Prowlers with the Improved Capability (ICAP) III jamming system, and served to integrate the airborne electronic On Growler, the NGJ transmitter will work in concert with the two primary receive functions on the platform: the Northrop Grumman ALQ-218 wideband Tactical Jamming Receiver, which geolocates emitters to cue jammers; and theRaytheon ALQ-227 Communications Countermeasures Set, a digital receiver/exciter that uses the ALQ-99 pod Low-Band Transmitter for communications jamming. Other components of the electronic attack suite include an ITT-produced Interference Cancellation System (INCANS) that provides UHF communications capability during low-frequency jamming. The aircraft can be variously armed with the air-to-surface AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM) and AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM). Flyoff Follows
The NGJ program’s technology maturation phase will be followed by technology development, a competitive prototyping phase or fly-off involving just two contractors. After this phase, the Navy will choose a single vendor for engineering and manufacturing development and, eventually, low-rate initial production. The NGJ is expected to begin operations with the EA-18G fleet in fiscal 2018. While part of the ICAP III jamming system flying on the latest EA-6Bs, the legacy ALQ-99 first entered service in 1971, based on 1960s technology. Capt. John Green (left), commander of the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) PMA-234 Airborne Electronic Attack and EA-6B Program Office, explained the rationale for the new jammer. “The ALQ-99 debuted just about 40 years ago, about the same time as the Prowler,” Green noted. “It has grown immensely over the years; we’ve upgraded virtually every component inside this podded system, the part that you see hanging on the wing stations of the aircraft. … Traditionally, we were always an IADS (Integrated Air Defense System) jammer. It was built to do that; it was very capable of that, but over the years we needed to jam other things like communications systems and datalinks and some non-traditional threats that we go after today. Where we have run into trouble is with some of the newer SAM systems. They have become much more capable in this age of networked systems and very fast electronics. They have a lot of counter countermeasures now on these radars and other system components that are beginning to exceed the capability of the ALQ-99.” The podded NGJ system is expected to employ multiple electronically scanned arrays, consisting of thousands of transmit/receive modules, that combined will provide a wider field of regard than currently available on F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, EA-18G Growlers and Air...
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