Army demos electronic jammer for helicopters

Sledgehammer would give Army electronic warfare capabilities

The Army’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) has demonstrated a new system that can be used both to locate electronic emitters on the battlefield — radios, remote-controlled improvised explosive devices, radars and other sources of electromagnetic radiation used by a potential adversary — and then jam them.

The system, called Sledgehammer, “is a combination of an airborne electronic support system named Airhammer, that was produced by L-3 Communications Applied Signal and Image Technology in Linthicum Heights, Md., and some existing government developed electronic attack capabilities,” said Charlie Maraldo, project manager for the Persistence Surveillance Testbed at CERDEC’s Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate. “It is flown and operated on board the rotary-wing vehicle, and it finds and jams signals from hostile forces. Sledgehammer can be installed and operational in about an hour on several versions of the UH-60,” he said.

Sledgehammer was flown aboard a CERDEC-owned UH-60A as part of this program, an adjunct to the C4ISR On-the-Move 2009 event held last month at Fort Dix, N.J, and at Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst, N.J., Maraldo said.

Intelligence data collected from Sledgehammer was transmitted via common data link to a ground station at Lakehurst and formatted so that it could be “ingested, displayed and processed by [the Distributed Common Ground System-Army],” Maraldo said, “and passed over the fiber-optic network that we had installed between our ground station at Lakehurst, and the C4ISR on-the-move server and facility at Range 1 at Fort. Dix.”

The system would give the Army an airborne electronic warfare capability it currently lacks – airborne electronic warfare are currently flown by Air Force EC-130H Compass Call, and Navy and Marine Corps EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare aircraft. With the data link connection, it provide situational awareness information for soldiers on the ground over DCGS-A, and Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below terminals.

Sledgehammer is close to becoming a Quick Response Capability program and will potentially be passed over to a program manager for procurement, Maraldo said. “There is real interest in Sledgehammer as a QRC that would be managed or at least assisted through a [program manager], but I don’t have any official word on a PM, and I don’t want to jump the gun on that,” he said.

About the Author

Sean Gallagher is senior contributing editor for Defense Systems.

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