Navy implements interferometer-based technology EW

The Navy is implementing enhanced interferometer-based technology that can covertly assess threats and jam enemy electronic systems as part of full production of Block 2 of the Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program (SEWIP) for the AN/SLQ-32 electronic warfare (EW) system.

Lockheed Martin Corp., Rotary and Mission Systems is conducting the final examination of options regarding the full-rate production of SEWIP Block 2 through a $98.484 million contract modification to the full-rate production procurement contract awarded last year. 

SEWIP Block 2 is focused on upgrading the interferometry-enhanced electronic signaling system of receivers and antennas and integrating a new open combat system interface with the AN/SLQ-32 system.

“SEWIP Block 2 utilizes an interferometer-based array and digital receiver technology. This greatly enhances the SEWIP Block 2 ability to detect and provide increased reporting accuracy against modern threat systems,” said Lt. j.g. Seth Clarke, a spokesman for the Navy.

The interferometer-based technology layers multiple electromagnetic waves on top of each other in order to reveal the discrepancies between their frequencies, which can be used to calculate the difference in travel distances of the waves, according to the published experiments of MIT’s Department of Physics. Inconsistent travel distances are caused by the waves hitting some sort of physical or electromagnetic, path-changing obstacle, such as a target or threat.

The second aspect of the SEWIP Block 2 upgrades, the open combat system interface, is part of the larger Human Machine Interface improvements that focus on technology that bridges the gap between operator and interface by organizing and presenting information in a way that is compatible with the operator’s needs and skills. According to Navy statements, the open combat system, along with upgraded electronic signal transmission and reception hardware, will enhance the threat detection and identification accuracy of the AN/SLQ-32 system.

“These upgrades have enhanced the warfighters capabilities with Improved Human Machine Interface and adjunct receivers for special signal intercepts. Upgraded Electronic Support (ES) antennas and ES processing has enabled the United States Navy to keep pace with the threat,” explained Clarke.

Another part of SEWIP Block 2 is the integration of an advanced EW pod, known as the Advanced Offboard Electronic Warfare (AOEW) System, with the regular onboard AN/SLQ-32 EW system, according to a Defense Systems report earlier this year.

The Navy and the Department of Defense both report that the EA-18G Growler has traditionally been the only aircraft with EW capabilities, however Lockheed Martin is currently developing the AOEW pod system to be compatible on MH-60 Seahawk helicopters. Installation of the AOEW pod on the smaller helicopter would allow the regular AN/SLQ-32 EW system to obtain data from less accessible areas. 

The pod “gives you additional reach-back capability. You get a look well over the horizon that will be communicated back to the ship. Depending on what the solution is, you could actually decide to provide some type of response. You can see the adversary well before he can see anything in the fleet,” said Joe Ottaviano, Director of Electronic Warfare at Lockheed Martin, earlier this year.

Block 2 is just one phase of the overall SEWIP, a development program for evolving the Navy’s legacy AN/SLQ-32(V) EW system through a series of Block upgrades.

Block 1 is the only one currently in full rate production phase and focuses on battlefield situational awareness. It introduces improved anti-ship missile defense, counter-targeting, and counter-surveillance technology, and according to the Navy published statements, these improvements come with the addition of improved control and display mechanisms and special signal receivers that provide both specific emitter and high gain/high sensitivity interception.

Block 2 is poised to enter full-rate production, and focuses on enhancing the threat detection and identification accuracy of the AN/SLQ-32 system.

According to a previous Defense Systems report, Block 3 includes adding electronic attack capabilities to all Navy ships, in a joint Lockheed and Raytheon effort.  Block 3 will also implement Electronic attack (EA) technology, such as the ability of the system to detect electromagnetic activity without revealing its presence and to interfere with the enemy’s signals. The goal of this phase, according to the Navy, is primarily to standardize and universalize EA systems across Navy vessels in order to be able to counter threats as they arise in this area.

Future projections for Block 4 include implementing electro-optical and infrared capabilities. According to research conducted by BAE Systems, an industry leader in Electro-optic design, electro-optic capabilities can facilitate the use of long-range naval thermal imaging, infrared laser systems, and target detection.

The final exploration of options for full-rate production of SEWIP Block 2 is being funded through the Navy’s FY17 Procurement, and Shipbuilding and Conversion budgets, but will not expire at the end of this fiscal year. Work is expected to be complete by July 2019.

About the Author

Katherine Owens is a freelance reporter for Defense Systems

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