Electronic warfare programs kick into high gear with a flurry of contract activity

By John Keller
Posted by John Keller

THE MIL & AERO BLOG, 16 July 2013. I can't remember another time when electronic warfare (EW) technology was as prominent in the headlines as it has been for the last month or so.

In fact, the entire notion of EW seems to be evolving to include not only traditional forms of EW such as 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.

As we see a procession of EW projects emerge, 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 to 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 the beginning of June with a couple of U.S. Navy contracts to Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics for a shipboard EW project called the Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program (SEWIP).

Although not a new program, the contracts to Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics for the SEWIP Block 1 and Block 2 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 this month 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 some of the world's most 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 Inc. in Herndon, Va., to develop planning software to enable warfighters to jam enemy communications, remotely controlled explosives, radar systems, and other RF assets while safeguarding U.S. and allied RF systems.

On 8 July came the big one: 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.

The next day came a contract from the Naval Research Lab in Washington to 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.

Two days later, on 11 July, came the announcement of contracts to six companies for the DARPA collectively worth nearly $74 million for the 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 came the announcement of an Air Force research project to be launched next month called the Advanced Novel Spectrum Warfare Environment Research (ANSWER) program to develop adaptive spectrum warfare technologies to enable warfighting in contested and denied areas.

We've been hearing that electronic warfare is among the most promising U.S. military technologies in an era of shrinking budgets. Over the past several weeks, however, we're finding out just how important it is.

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The Mil & Aero Bloggers

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Ernesto Burden is the publisher of PennWell’s Aerospace & Defense Media Group, including Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence and Avionics Europe.  He’s a father of four, a runner, and an avid digital media enthusiast with a deep background in the intersection of media publishing, digital technology, and social media. He can be reached at ernestob@pennwell.com and on Twitter @aero_ernesto.

Courtney E. Howard, as executive editor, enjoys writing about all things electronics and avionics in PennWell’s burgeoning Aerospace and Defense Group, which encompasses Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence, the Avionics Europe conference, and much more. She’s also a self-proclaimed social-media maven, mil-aero nerd, and avid avionics geek. Connect with Courtney at Courtney@Pennwell.com, @coho on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

Mil & Aero Magazine

December 2013
Volume 24, Issue 12
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