All modern forces depend on unimpeded access to, and use of, the EM spectrum in conducting military operations. Therefore, there is a requirement to gain and maintain an advantage in the electromagnetic spectrum by countering adversary’s systems and protecting one’s own systems. Thus the EM spectrum can no longer be viewed as an enabler, but rather as a primary warfighting domain, on par with land, sea, air and space operations. This is leading to race among all Militaries to introduce innovations in sensors and communications, countermeasures, and counter-countermeasures in an attempt to gain an advantage over their enemies.
The Pentagon in Oct. 2020 released a strategy for military use of the electromagnetic spectrum that could ultimately spur the creation of a new combatant command to oversee those operations. The strategy pushes for new tactics, training, technology, and partnerships that would let the military hop across and hide in frequencies more easily, sense and attack or defend against other actors on the spectrum, and better withstand cyberattacks on the spectrum. DOD is considering its options for sharing and leasing frequencies with the private sector so it can digitally patrol as much of that space as possible. Like many other technology development efforts in DOD, officials want to connect their electronic warfare and spectrum management tools across services to be more responsive and less reliant on a few specific systems built for the EW mission.
Jamming is defined as electronically rendering a circuit or network unusable by disrupting it so it cannot be effectively used as a means of communication for purposes of command and control. Such an attack could be directed against any portion of the communications system and be of extended duration or else just long enough to lose crypto synchronization. Jamming is at the discretion of the enemy. It does not have to be constant or dependent on large fixed sites. . It is cheap to obtain and simple to operate. It can effectively be used surgically or in broadly based attacks. Most commercial as well as military communication Satellites are not protected against Jamming.
Generally, jamming prevents an adversary from using their radar or radio for either offensive or defensive purposes, by placing an interfering signal into the enemy receiver along with the desired signal. Jammers usually use a high power transmitter that mimics the frequencies and modulation used by an opponent to disrupt their receivers and to corrupt the expected information. Jamming can also be used to add spurious signals to radar system returns, fooling the receiving radar to think there are more, or fewer, targets in an area. In some cases, particularly in depriving a user of radio communication, complete transmissions are recorded, altered and retransmitted, making the recipient unsure of the quality of the data.
An electronic-warfare aircraft is a military aircraft equipped for electronic warfare (EW), that is, degrading the effectiveness of enemy radar and radio systems by using radar jamming and deception methods.
The U.S. Air Force has concluded a two-day, $1.4 million that evaluated the F-35 fighter jet’s ability to provide its electronic warfare capabilities to other stealthy reconnaissance and bombing platforms. The event, which took place Aug. 2020 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, tested the ability for the F-35 to provide Suppression of Enemy Air Defense, or SEAD, support for other stealthy platforms such as the B-2 and the RQ-170 reconnaissance drone, according to an Aug. 6 news release from the Air Force.
Other platforms that participated included the F-22, the F-15 and the Navy’s E/A-18G aircraft. Some aspects of the scenario tested these fourth- and fifth-generation platforms’ joint and coalition SEAD integration. Other scenarios focused on how the latest fourth-gen electronic capabilities could increase fifth-gen freedom of maneuver, and vice versa, in contested environments, the Air Force said.
The United States Navy’s EA-18G Growler electronic attack fighters are one of a small number of military aircraft types dedicated to the task of jamming—and potentially destroying—hostile radars that could guide deadly surface-to-air missiles against friendly aircraft. This mission is known as Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD). The Growler is derived from the F-18 Super Hornet fighter, and is faster, more maneuverable, and more heavily armed than preceding aerial jamming platforms based on transport and attack planes. This allows the Growlers to contribute additional firepower to strike missions, keep up with fighter planes they are escorting, and potentially approach a bit closer to hostile air defenses.
China, too, has made rapid strides in electronic warfare aircraft as well as developed new GPS spoofing techniques, and has a separate military service specializing in space, cyber and electronic warfare. The fact that China recently showcased electronic warfare vehicles in a military parade in Beijing shows the importance it places on those capabilities.
China has developed its own Growler. The aircraft in question is a variant of the two-seat J-16 Red Eagle strike plane—itself a Chinese copy of the Russian Sukhoi Su-30MKK Flanker. The two-seat Red Eagle is roughly comparable to the American F-15E, and improves upon the Russian original with new avionics including an Active Electronically Scanned Array radar (AESA), the current state of the art in fighter-based radar technology. The J-16D variant—the “D” in the designation comes from the Chinese word for “electronic,” diànzǐ—made its first flight on December 18, 2015. J-16D’s airframe has integrated hardware to make jamming and anti-radar missiles more effective, it probably is designed to use jammers and anti-radar missiles. Most likely, it would carry two to three jamming pods the under the wings and fuselage, each optimized versus different radar frequencies. It is thought that these jammers may also use AESA technology.
Russia is currently dominating the arena of ground-based electronic warfare, the discipline dedicated to detecting and interfering with enemy radar and communication signals while protecting friendly forces from similar effects. Russia is developing a new electronic warfare aircraft, which will be capable to turn off the electronics installed on military satellites, a source from the Russian defense industry told Sputnik.
Electronic-warfare aircraft, such as the EA-18G, have become a fixture of aerial warfare since World War II. Jamming radars, missile-guidance systems and communications networks has become par for the course. For that matter, the Pentagon worries about Russian and Chinese capabilities to jam or spoof GPS links that are key to accurate navigation and targeting.
U.K.’s New Fighter Jet
The U.K.’s future fighter jet, Tempest, is being designed around a new radar system capable of collecting up to 10,000 times more data than earlier radar systems—then analyzing it aboard the airplane to detect stealthy adversaries. The Multi-Function Radio Frequency System (MFRFS) will also include the ability to jam enemy radar systems, blinding them to Tempest and its weapons. Tempest is scheduled to enter service with the Royal Air Force (RAF) in the mid-2030s.
MFRFS, according to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, is an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. AESA radars are common in advanced fourth- and fifth-generation fighter jets, replacing the traditional nose-mounted radar dish with a matrix of hundreds of tiny radar modules. Here’s a good description from the Royal Aeronautical Society:
“[R]ecent years have seen the development of active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars which use a matrix of hundreds of tiny radar modules to ‘steer’ a beam of radio waves in different directions, instead of physically moving the radar antenna to point at a target. Using an AESA radar, the beam can be moved about extremely quickly, allowing the radar to perform multiple tasks simultaneously, such as conducting maritime surveillance at the same time as monitoring weather along an aircraft’s flight path.”
The RAF describes MFRFS as “four times as accurate as existing radars in 1/10th of the package.” The radar is able to collect as much data per second as the city of Edinburgh’s internet traffic. (Edinburgh has a population of 482,000.) Powerful signal processors would then use that radar data to “paint” a picture of the battlefield for the pilot, highlighting friendly and enemy planes, ground targets, air defenses, and other important features.
In addition to detection, the Tempest fighter will likely also be able to use its radar for electronic attack. Once a mission reserved for special mission aircraft, thanks to AESA radars, modern fighters can often perform their own electronic attack (EA) missions. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, for example, can already perform electronic attack missions with its radar, including “false targets, network attack, advanced jamming, and algorithm-packed data streams.” Tempest will likely be able to perform even more sophisticated EA missions with an even more powerful radar system.
Russian Airborne Electronic Warfare
Russia’s latest intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft, the Tu-214R carries EW equipment for radio reconnaissance and radio suppression, capable of intercepting and suppressing a wide range of radio signals—from cell phones to aircraft and ground-based radars and EW systems. In addition, Il-20M1 reconnaissance planes and Su-34 fighter-bombers, when armed with the Khibiny EW complex, can interfere with long-range radar-detection aircraft. And at an early stage in the Russian operations in Syria, an extensive electronic intelligence system was created in Syria, with an ability to scan the radio traffic of terrorists and militants. The Su-34 uses the L-175V/L-175VE container with the Khibiny EW complex (Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye).
A multifunctional aviation-based electronic warfare/suppression complex was developed as part of the Khibiny R&D project by the Kaluga Radio Engineering Research Institute. It protects aircraft from anti-aircraft and aviation weapons. Due to difficulties with the mass production of Su-34s and L-175V systems, a four-container stackable version of the Khibiny was developed to provide group protection of aircraft. The complex included U1 and U2 containers. These containers do not require executive radio intelligence for target designation. The second pair of containers—Sh1 and Sh0—had an operating range that was different from the Khibiny, and their work required a different logic and a separate executive radio intelligence system. The L-265 Khibiny-M EW complex was created, which can be used both in the containerless version—only with equipment built into the airplane’s glider (Su-35S)—and using containers (Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye).
Tsyganok notes the deployment of the Krasukha-4 EW systems in Syria, designed to suppress aircraft radars and counter drones. The Krasukha-4 complex is capable of closing the protected object from radar detection at ranges up to 150–300 kilometers, and can also inflict radar damage to enemy means of communication and EW. Moreover, by mixing various EW systems with air-defense assets such as the Pantsir-S1, the Russian Armed Forces have successfully countered enemy drone attacks in Syria, reportedly eliminating 54 this year alone (Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye).
Russia Claims to Be Developing New Aircraft that Can Disable U.S. Satellites
The work is currently underway to develop an aircraft equipped with jamming systems that will replace Il-22PP Porubshchik [electronic warfare aircraft], which are currently being delivered to the Russian Aerospace Forces. This machine will receive a fundamentally new on-board equipment, which will allow to conduct electronic suppression of any targets — ground, air, sea — and disable enemy satellites that provide navigation and radio communication on the ground,” the source said.
According to the source, as for today the conceptual design of this aircraft has been developed and the relevant design and development work is expected to start in the near future.
The source reminded that the Russian Aerospace Forces are currently operating three electronic warfare aircraft on the basis of Il-22. The problem of Porubshchik 1 is in the aircraft platform itself, as Russia has about 10 Il-22 planes and this machine cannot be reproduced. Such a small number of aircraft will not be able to meet the needs of Russia’s army, the source explained.
The Il-22PP Porubshchik was designed in late 2000s on the basis of the Soviet Il-18 passenger aircraft made in mid 1970-s. The Il-22PP was first flown publicly in 2016. The aircraft, described as an “escort jammer” to support other aircraft, was intended to disrupt radars, surface-to-air and cruise-missile guidance systems, and tactical data networks such as Link 16. According to media reports, the aircraft is capable to disable most modern electronic warfare systems installed on foreign planes, air defense systems, as well as unmanned aerial vehicles.
Chinese Electronic Warfare Aircrafts
China already flies another fighter bomber with electronic warfare capabilities, the domestically designed two-seat JH-7 Flying Leopard, around 240 of which serve in the PLA Air Force and Naval Air Force. Capable of long-range operations and maximum speed of Mach 1.75, the Flying Leopard can carry about twenty thousand pounds of munitions, including anti-radar missiles. Both the base JH-7 and upgraded JH-7A have been photographed with jamming pods, which boast multiple jamming transmitters. However, the Flying Leopard lacks electronic warfare equipment integrated in the airframe, and is thus more limited as an electronic-warfare platform than a purpose-designed aircraft.
China also maintains a modest fleet of larger, slower aircraft that can provide jamming support at standoff range. These include a couple dozen Y-8GX and Y-9GX transports equipped with tactical jammers and other electronic-warfare gear, and HD-6 electronic-warfare planes based on the H-6 bomber . New Xianglong “Soaring Dragon” drones may also have application as tactical jammers.
New Chinese Intelligence Gathering and EW Aircraft.
China has reportedly developed a new type of electronic warfare aircraft with extra antennas installed on board. The aircraft in question is a variant of the two-seat J-16 Red Eagle strike plane—itself a Chinese copy of the Russian Sukhoi Su-30MKK Flanker. The two-seat Red Eagle is roughly comparable to the American F-15E, and improves upon the Russian original with new avionics including an Active Electronically Scanned Array radar (AESA), the current state of the art in fighter-based radar technology.
The J-16D has had its thirty-millimeter cannon and infrared sensor removed; this is not a plane intended to get into short-range dogfights. Instead, there are several new antennas and conformal electronic-warfare arrays along the fuselage. The J-16D’s nose radome is reshaped, possibly to accommodate a more advanced AESA radar. Most importantly, new electronic-warfare pods are mounted on the wingtips that resemble the American ALQ-218 electronic support measure pods on the wingtips of the EA-18G Growler. These are electromagnetic sensors that can analyze radar frequencies and help determine the position of radar-transmitting devices—data that would be highly useful both for jamming radars and for targeting them for destruction.
The new aircraft could replace the Gaoxin-4 (GX-4); an older electronic warfare aircraft based on the Y-8 transport airframe, because the Y-9 being larger and heavier can fly longer and carry more devices. One important role the new aircraft could play is to gather intelligence and electronic data in the South and East China Seas.
It seems to be equipped with a hemispheric radar dome under its chin, two large antennae on each side of the fuselage, an antenna on each side of the tailfin and an EW pod on top of the tailfin. Such devices indicate that the aircraft can effectively gather broad spectrum of adversary’s COMINT and ELINT. The CCTV report said that It can also carry out suppression of enemy’s electronic signals, thus supporting China’s aerial strike missions, by jamming and rendering the hostile air defense systems, ineffective.
It would be in a position to gather intelligence on all kinds of platforms, especially in the maritime domain, to gain tactical advantage in case of a conflict. It appears to have been developed from Y-9 transport aircraft, and the CCTV report termed it as ‘a new type of special mission aircraft,’ without further elaboration. The Y-9 medium-sized tactical transport aircraft with a maximum range of about 4,000 km, is known to have been modified as required, for early warning, reconnaissance and anti-submarine roles. But the new variations seen in the photo are much different from the others.
Even with a maximum load of electronic-warfare gear, the J-16 would have six of its twelve hardpoints free to carry weapons. China has three different types of anti-radiation missiles (ARM), which are designed to home in on enemy radars from afar. The CM-103 missile has a range of sixty-two miles and is probably accurate enough to hit naval and ground targets with its 176-pound warhead. China also has a indigenously developed copy of the Russian Kh-31P missile, known as the YJ-91, which has slightly longer range and also has antiship applications. Finally, there is an LD-10 ARM missile derived from the PL-12 antiaircraft missile. Of course, the J-16D could carry most of the other armaments that the basic Red Eagle fighter can carry on its underwing hardpoints.
US DOD’s Electronic warfare capability
DOD’s three primary manned EW electronic attack aircraft are the Navy EA-18G Growler, the Air Force EC- 130H Compass Call, and the Air Force EC-37B Compass Call Re-Host. A fourth manned aircraft—the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter—has extensive, integrated EW capabilities.
The EA-18G Growler is a variant in the F/A-18 family of aircraft that combines the proven F/A-18F Super Hornet platform with a sophisticated electronic warfare suite. Built to replace the EA-6B Prowler, the Growler is the first newly-designed electronic warfare aircraft produced in more than 35 years. The aircraft also retains all of the F/A-18E/F’s multi-mission capabilities with its validated design and the capability to perform a wide range of enemy defense suppression missions.
The EA-18G Growler, an Airborne Electronic Attack aircraft integrates the latest electronic attack technology, including the ALQ-218 receiver, ALQ-99 jamming pods, communication countermeasures, and satellite communications. The AN/ALQ-249, the Next Generation Jamming Pod, is in final development and will be the successor for the long serving ALQ-99 pods. Along with the electronic attack suite, the Growler also features the APG-79 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar.
Growler Block II is currently in development and will include advances like the Advanced Cockpit System (ACS), and other internal improvements in common with the F/A-18E/F Block III, and enhancements to the Airborne Electronic Attack suite that will enable the EA-18G to outpace current threats and maintain the lead throughout its planned lifecycle.
US Navy and Boeing demonstrate new targeting technologies for EA-18G
U.S. Navy had commissioned a $279.4-million contract to enhance the jamming features of the EA-18G Growler airframe to maintain air superiority in the modern battle space when adversaries employ latest radar technologies to counter stealth, advanced surface-to-air (SAM) missile systems and other anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) systems.
The goal of the upgrade is to present a platform for airborne electronic attacks (AEAs) that could adapt to the latest in EW requirements, which include suppression of enemy air defenses, stand-off/escort jamming, non-traditional electronic attack, self-protect/time-critical strike support, and continuous capability enhancement.
The US Navy and Boeing have successfully demonstrated new targeting technologies for EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft, in a bid to enhance the aircraft’s situational awareness capabilities. The Growler aircraft is a derivative of the two-seat F/A-18 Hornet and is used to conduct electronic attack (EA) and suppression of enemy air defences (SEAD). EA-18G Growlers, since achieving initial operational capability in September 2009, it has been equipped with the AN/ALQ-99 airborne EW system.
Using the new high-bandwidth data link, an advanced targeting processor, an open architecture and a tablet integrated with the mission system, data was integrated from multiple Growlers operating with an E-2 Hawkeye aircraft. This technology enabled EA-18G to detect targets over longer distances and quickly share information. US Navy F/A-18 and EA-18Gprogramme manager captain David Kindley said: “This enhanced targeting capability provides our aircrews with a significant advantage, especially in an increasingly dense threat environment where longer-range targeting is critical to the fight.”
Boeing F/A-18 and EA-18G programmes vice-president Dan Gillian added: “The complexity of global threat environments continues to evolve. “This long-range targeting technology is essential as we advance electronic attack capabilities for the conflicts of today and tomorrow.”
Next Generation Jammer (NGJ)
Enter the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ), a new, more capable EW system that combines agile, high-power beam-jamming techniques and state-of-the-art solid-state electronics to give wider threat coverage, greater precision and enhanced mission flexibility. According to the US Naval Air Systems Command, it “will provide enhanced airborne electronic attack capabilities to disrupt and degrade enemy air defence and ground communication systems.”
The contract called for standoff jamming technology that brings next-generation jamming assets to the U.S. Navy— Such features rely on the ability to locate, record, replay, and jam hostile communications while tracking across an extremely broad frequency range. Maintaining the ability to communicate with allied forces while operating jamming electronics is another critical requirement.
The NGJ programme aims to jam three radar and communications frequency ranges used by adversaries by developing three jammers: NGJ Mid Band, NGJ Low Band and, eventually, NGJ High Band. Adversaries are looking to push out the range of enemies through more advanced radars and electronic sensing capabilities, called anti-access/area denial, so U.S. forces will have jam and confuse these systems farther away, allowing other strike platforms to penetrate. This necessitates a need for more capability, and more reserves.
Raytheon has implemented a highly efficient AESA-based (actively electronically steered array) jamming system with high power and wideband gallium-nitride (GaN) technology. “Due to the nature of it being an AESA, you can form many beams or a super beam with a lot of energy. It is agile, so you can dart from one system to another system on the ground almost instantaneously,” says Andy Lowery, the NGJ chief engineer for Raytheon.
The array modules include electronics that use GaN high-power amplifiers (HPAs). Those amplifiers drive the power signals through the circulators and apertures to the array elements. The AESAs can therefore form high-energy RF beams with advanced signal capability that can be steered by a highly advanced and rapidly reprogrammable computer.
The pods being developed will have to have self-contained power supplied given the capacity they’ll need to generate, which will be too much power to be generated from the airplane Tim Murphy, manager, naval aviation campaigns at Northrop Grumman, said. Winston noted this will also help facilitate the speed that the Next Generation Jammer will be able to switch between frequencies to keep up with targets that are incredibly fast.
The NGJ is built with open architecture technology using Raytheon’s airborne radio frequency systems, jamming techniques, combat-proven antenna array technology, and sophisticated, solid-state electronics. Proprietary and closed system designs limit rapid, innovative technology insertion and hamper the ability to match or out-pace emerging threat developments. The Next-Generation Jammer (NGJ), for aircrafts and unmanned aerial vehicles, has an open architecture.
This increased capacity and modularity helps with force optimization, Ernest “Bert” Winston, senior manager of strategy and business development for Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems, said, as a single Growler can do more on mission, potentially freeing up others to perform missions elsewhere.
Raytheon has been awarded a $1 billion Navy contract for engineering and manufacturing development of Increment 1 of the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ). “This is a significant milestone for electronic warfare,” said Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems president Rick Yuse. The first increment of the NGJ jammer is set to become operational in 2021. The Navy will buy 135 ship-sets for its Growler fleet. Each ship set consists of two pods each. The Next generation Jammer is developed in three increments, the first will target the mid-band, the second will cover the low band and third – the high band.
Increment 1 will provide mid-band jamming capabilities to counter the engagement radars commonly used by ground-based surface-to-air defence systems, which are deemed to pose the greatest current threat to US aircraft. Scheduled to be in service with the US Navy and achieve initial operating capability in 2020/21, Increment 1 pods will replace the existing under-wing mid-band AN/ALQ-99 pods on the Growlers.
Raytheon and the U.S. Navy have completed successful flight tests of a prototype Next Generation Jammer (NGJ) pod against threat radars representative of enemy air defenses. The integrated prototype included the all-digital receiver and techniques generator and active electronically scanned array (AESA) front end packaged in a self-powered pod. “The combination of jamming techniques, beam agility, array transmit power and jammer management were very effective against the threat systems and all test objectives were met or exceeded,” the company says.
The current low-band pods located on the aircrafts’ centre-line, underneath the fuselage, which were recently upgraded and modernised, will be retained until at least 2022, when the low-band capability to jam surveillance radar will be extended to the NGJ in Increment 2. NGJ-LB is an external radar and communications jamming pod that is carried underneath an aircraft and is part of a larger series of weapon systems contracts that are planned to ultimately replace the aging ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming System currently used on Boeing EA-18G Growlers.
According to Naval Air Systems Command program manager Capt. John Bailey, this second NGJ increment will focus on countering the ever growing threat from low frequency radars. The Navy focused the initial increment of the Next Generation Jammer on the mid-band threat where most fire control radars operate because that is the most prolific immediate threat, Bailey said. However, as new low observable aircraft come online and the number of low-band threats operating in frequencies such as UHF and VHF proliferate, the Navy had to work to counter the threat. Low frequency radars can target stealth aircraft like the F-22 and F-35, making the capability that much more critical.
The US Navy awarded two $36 million technology demonstration contracts to L3 Technologies and Northrop Grumman for its Next Generation Jammer Low Band (NGJ-LB) competition. The companies were awarded contracts to demonstrate existing technologies, the USN said on 25 October 2018. The award comes after a protest from Raytheon, which also bid in the competition, was denied by the Government Accountability Office on 22 October. “NGJ-LB is a critical piece of the overall NGJ system in that it focuses on the denial, degradation, deception and disruption of our adversaries’ abilities to gain an advantage in that portion of the electromagnetic spectrum,” said Capt Michael Orr, programme manager of PMA-234, the USN office that houses the airborne electronic attack systems and EA-6B programmes. “It delivers to the warfighter significant improvements in power, advanced jamming techniques and jamming effectiveness over the legacy ALQ-99 system.”
Each low-band demonstration contract has a 20-month period of performance, during which time the USN will assess the technologies’ maturity to help guide future development and acquisition strategy, the service says. Finally, and currently scheduled to take place in 2024, Increment 3 will provide the Navy with the entirely new capacity for high-band jamming to help deal with the air-to-air threat from enemy fighters.
The US Navy started the final Demonstration of Existing Technologies (DET) test period for the Next Generation Jammer Low Band (NGJ-LB) capability in May 2020, which is part of a larger NGJ weapon system, at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland. NGJ-LB tests are being conducted at the Air Combat Environmental Test and Evaluation Facility and the Facility for Antenna and RCS Measurement (FARM). Under the 20-month DET contract, the US Navy collaborated with multiple industry partners to conduct the test. NGJ-LB Airborne Electronic Attack Systems (PMA-234) Programme Manager Captain Michael Orr said: “This is an exciting time for the team. It’s the culmination of almost two years in the making.
According to Captain John ‘Bails’ Bailey, former programme manager of the US Navy Airborne Electronic Attack Systems, the NGJ will generate around ten times the isotropic radiated power of the old AN/ALQ-99, and the signal itself is cleaner, which means less accidental interference. Speaking at the Sea Air Space seminar in May 2016, he said it could also handle “quadruple the number of assignments” and can switch from target to target almost instantaneously.
Also built-in is the ability to collect, analyse and jam new enemy signals as they occur, enabling the system to adjust in-flight to evolving threat profiles, and apply appropriate counter measures as the situation develops. Its agile jamming flexibility is further extended by the deliberate choice of open architecture, solid-state electronics, which enables quick and easy updates to be made to its on-board threat library as and when required, to meet new hostile capabilities as they appear.
The U.S. Navy in Dec 2020 has awarded L3Harris Technologies (NYSE:LHX) a five-year, $496 million contract to deliver prototype tactical jamming pods designed to extend U.S. Air superiority. The Next Generation Jammer Low Band (NGJ-LB) is a high-powered, high-capacity airborne electronic warfare (EW) system. L3Harris’ single-pod solution enables extended stand-off jamming capability, covers a broad spectrum and processes an increased number of threats. The system operates seamlessly with joint and allied forces, and provides growth capacity for emerging threats.
The company will deliver eight operational pods to NAVAIR for fleet assessment, and additional test assets for airworthiness and design verification. The NGJ-LB pods will be flown on the EA-18G Growler and continue the Navy’s plan to address operational gaps and replace the aging ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming System pods operating in the low frequency spectrum.
The NGJ reportedly goes beyond traditional jamming too, adding signals intelligence and a communications hub capability to the more usual EW and radar tasks for the AESA array. There have also been some reports that the system has the potential ability to launch a cyber-attack, involving inserting rogue data packets into enemy systems in a so-called “network invasion.” Such an attack is rumoured to have played a part in the 2007 Israeli ‘Operation Orchard’ raid on a nuclear plant near the eastern Syrian city of Dir A-Zur, in which BAE’s ‘Suter’ airborne network attack system was said to have shut down Syria’s Russian-made air defences.
The US Navy alluded to its interest in the idea in its 2015 ‘A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower’, adding ‘all-domain access’ to the traditional four functions of the fleet, and according anti-access/area denial threats almost the same priority as nuclear deterrence. It would hardly come as a big surprise, then, if the reports of the new system’s additional cyber offensive capability were ultimately to turn out to be true.