Analysts and budget numbers have been telling us for many months that electronic warfare (EW) represents one of the most promising opportunities for aerospace and defense technology in this era of shrinking Defense Department bank accounts.
If I wasn't a believer before, then I surely am now. I can't remember another time when EW technology was as prominent in the headlines as it has been for the past few months.
In fact, the entire notion of EW seems to be evolving to include not only traditional forms like RF communications and radar jamming, but also the relatively new discipline of cyber warfare to protect U.S. and allied computers and attack and disable enemy computers and data networks.
A new term is cropping up-spectrum warfare-which includes traditional EW, but adds optical warfare, navigation warfare, and cyber warfare. Some future systems, for example, not only will be able to use RF transmitters to jam enemy radar and communications, but also insert viruses and other destructive computer code into enemy systems to spoof or disable them.
The current flood of U.S. military EW and spectrum warfare activity started heating up at the end of May and beginning of June with U.S. Navy contracts to Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics for a shipboard EW project called the Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program (SEWIP). The contracts to those companies for the first and second segments of the project were worth more than $60 million. SEWIP is in place to upgrade surface warship EW defenses against cruise missiles and other radar threats.
On 23 June, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced industry briefings on upcoming contracting opportunities in communications, electronic warfare, surveillance, navigation, and battle management.
On the first day of July, the EW activity started to accelerate with announcements of nine contracts from the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory for the Advanced Components for Electronic Warfare (ACE) Phase 0 program to develop advanced and capable electronic and photonic components for tomorrow's EW systems.
Two days later came an award from the U.S. Army Contracting Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., to Sotera Defense Solutions in Herndon, Va., to develop planning software enabling warfighters to jam enemy communications, remotely controlled explosives, radar systems, and other RF assets while safeguard- ing U.S. and allied RF systems.
On 8 July came a quarter-billion-dollar contract to the Raytheon Co. Space and Airborne Systems segment in McKinney, Texas, to build the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ) to enable the EA-18G Growler carrier-based jet to jam enemy radar, communications, and other RF systems.
Only a day later came a contract from the Naval Research Lab in Washington to the ITT Exelis Electronic Systems division in Van Nuys, Calif., to develop an add-on advanced EW system to protect surface warships from a newly discovered, yet undisclosed, immediate threat to Navy fleet operations.
Following quickly, on 11 July, came the announcement of contracts, collectively worth nearly $74 million and awarded to six companies, for the DARPA Foundational Cyberwarfare (Plan X) project to conduct research into the nature of cyber warfare, and to develop strategies to seize and maintain U.S. cyber security and cyber-attack dominance.
Finally, an Air Force research proj-ect, the Advanced Novel Spectrum Warfare Environment Research program, will launch this month to develop adaptive spectrum warfare technologies to enable warfighting in contested and denied areas. Now we're seeing just how important EW really is in this day and age.