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Navy Develops Next-Gen Airborne Jammer

by Kris Osborn on July 2, 2013

130511-N-RG587-182The U.S. Navy is developing airborne next-generation jammer, or NGJ, technology designed to enable aircraft to operate in increasingly complex and contested electromagnetic or “jamming” environments, service officials said.

“The NGJ program is being designed to deny, degrade or deceive the enemy’s use of the electromagnetic spectrum.  It will deliver significantly improved jamming capabilities such as higher radiated power and improved jamming modulations,” the Navy said in a written statement. “Its design will reduce ‘friendly jamming fratricide’ by operating at a more precise frequency setting with reduced unintentional harmonics.”

The idea is to allow aircraft in the future to overcome what the Pentagon refers to as Anti-Access/Area-Denial threats, or A2/AD. This refers to circumstances wherein the U.S. military’s ability to operate is challenged by potential adversaries’ technologies. In fact, some of the technologies possibly used by potential enemies include electro-magnetic warfare, “jamming” or electronic attack.

The Next-Generation Jammer, to be flown initially on the EA-18G Growler aircraft, is the replacement for the aging ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming System, or TJS, Navy officials explained.

“ALQ-99 is the only airborne TJS in the DoD inventory. ALQ-99 is facing obsolescence and thus cannot counter all current, much less future threats. The NGJ will address evolving threats and fill capability gaps that the aging ALQ-99 TJS cannot,” the officials added.

NGJ will be a full-spectrum jammer and it will be developed in increments, service officials explained. The Navy plans to reach Initial Operational Capability with the NGJ system by the fourth quarter of 2020.

“Typical EA-18G AEA payloads will include two increment-1 NGJ pods on the wings and a centerline pod — either an ALQ-99 or an increment-2 NGJ pod,” officials said.

The NGJ will also include antenna arrays able to radiate high power jamming energy, high power amplifiers comprised of transmit-only or transmit-receive modules, and power generation capability, the service officials said. The power generation capability involves a technology wherein air flowing over the pods can be converted into electrical power.

EA-18G-maker Boeing is preparing to do the integration of NGJ onto the aircraft.

“The ALQ-99s have been the ‘best of breed’ since Vietnam but they need to be retired. The NGJ will elevate [airborne electronic attacks] effects as much as precision weapons replaced ‘iron bombs’ in strike aviation during the 1980s and 1990s.  NGJ will be our precision weapon, and it needs to stay on track so we can keep up with the rapidly evolving threat and offer this important capability to the warfighter,” said Rick Morgan, Boeing’s EA-18G business development.

The NGJ system is intended to replace and improve the current airborne electronic attack capability with a new system that can address the many diverse and rapidly changing threats expected on the electronic battlefield, officials said. In the future, the NGJ will be deployed or integrated onto other manned and unmanned platforms, the officials added.

NGJ, is slated to enter a Technology Development phase by the third quarter of fiscal year 2013, according to officials. A range of vendors are competing for contracts to enter the TD phase, including BAE Systems, ITT, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon.

The NGJ is being engineered to be modular, meaning the hardware is being designed such that it can readily accommodate software changes and upgrades as new threat information is learned.

“Its modular and reprogrammable architecture will support software and hardware updates to rapidly counter the many diverse and rapidly improving threats and will ensure its viability against threats of the future.  NGJ will not be designed to counter specific threats, but to be able to counter technologies and capabilities of current and future weapons systems,” Navy officials explained.

NGJ will leverage the intellectual capital from not only government laboratories, but also from industry and academia to provide jamming capabilities of the future, service officials said.

“Using the latest software driven digital technology, including very fast Digital to Analog (D/A) converters, the system is designed to be rapidly reprogrammable to increase its timeliness and effectiveness against improving threat scenarios,” Navy officials added.

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