Electronic Warfare

Funding cuts delay Navy's Next Generation Jammer

Navy EA-18G Growler

The NGJ will be used with the Navy's EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft.

The Navy’s Next Generation Jammer—a key tool in the service’s electronic warfare plans—is reportedly showing its value, although budget pressures will delay its expected deployment by a year.

Development on the jammer got underway in full force early this year and it performed well during a test in October, but reduced funding will push its initial operating capability back from 2020 to 2021, according to the 2014 Position Report from the Chief of Naval Operations.

The NGJ, as the jammer is known, is being developed by Raytheon, which won a $279 million contract in July 2013 and survived a protest from fellow bidder BAE Systems. After the protest, the company resumed work on the project in January.

In October, the system performed well in fight tests at the Navy’s China Lake test range in California, operating against threats similar to those of advanced Russian and Chinese radars, according to a report in Forbes. The tests were the first time NGJ, which integrates electronic countermeasures, cyber operations and signals intelligence, was tested in an airborne configuration, Forbes reported.

The Navy, and the military in general, is putting a lot of emphasis on electronic warfare, as the increasing number of drones, sensors and wireless networks crowd the electromagnetic spectrum. Protecting U.S. use of the spectrum, while developing the ability to interfere with adversaries’ use of it, has always been a military priority, but its importance has only grown with the increased reliance on wireless communications.

With NGJ, the Navy is looking to replace its existing ALQ-99 systems, which date to the early 1970s, with an integrated, higher-power jammer. NGJ uses gallium nitride technology, which increases jamming power, along with agile beam-jamming techniques and solid-state electronics, all in an open architecture that will allow for future upgrades, according to Raytheon.

When fielded, NGJ will be installed in the Navy’s electronic warfare aircraft, the Boeing EA-18G Growler, though it also could be used with unmanned aircraft such as the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike, or UCLASS, system currently being developed.

NGJ isn’t the Navy’s only electronic warfare project, of course. The CNO’s Position Report also noted that Block 2 upgrades for the Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program, or SEWIP, were delivered this year, with installations started on DDG-51 class ships. CNO said full-rate production is expected in mid-2015.

SEWIP is an ongoing program to upgrade the AN/SLQ-32 Electronic Warfare system, which, like ALQ-99, was introduced in the 1970s. Block 2 upgrades include new electronic support antennas and receivers and an open combat system interface. Block 3, currently in the technology development phase, will add an electronic attack capability to the system. Block 4, which is just being planned, will provide advanced electro-optic and infrared capabilities, according to the Navy.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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