Electronic warfare goes on the offensive

Next-generation jammer likely suitable manned and unmanned aircraft alike

Before the end of the decade, variants of the Navy’s Next-Generation Jammer (NGJ) will be outfitted on at least a half dozen manned and unmanned aircraft, reports David A. Fulghum at Aviation Week.

The effort to build and deploy a jamming pod that contains electron pulses, information-scrambling data streams and invasive algorithms will see the pendulum swing toward using electronic warfare in the attack mode.

The Navy’s planned EP-X signals and communications intelligence aircraft, which is still on the drawing boards, will replace the long-serving EP-3 signals intelligence aircraft. The EP-X will seek and locate the signals that the NGJ will jam and manipulate.

The Navy’s EA-18G Growler is the lead platform for the NGJ. Next in line is some variant of the Marine Corps F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The Air Force’s F-35A might be third. The technology is certainly capable of being deployed on larger, fast-moving unmanned aircraft, industry experts said.

The Navy’s chief priorities are to improve the existing ALQ-99 jammer pod’s capabilities, put the advanced NGJ capability on the EA-18G, add new capabilities to the NGJ, and integrate the NGJ into the F-35As.

The Air Force is watching NGJ development closely, industry sources told Aviation Week. Despite some differences in frequency coverage, the basic technology could be put on either manned or unmanned platforms.

Specific ranges for standoff jamming are classified, but there are indications that the Navy expects something around 200 miles so that the Earth’s curvature will not create line-of-sight problems.

Last year BAE Systems, ITT, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin each received contracts to begin developing concepts for replacing the ALQ-99 pod.

To read about the Army’s plans for electronic warfare, see Brig. Gen. Thomas Cole talks about electronic warfare progress.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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