Leidos moving to systems development in electronic warfare (EW) effort to counter adaptive radar

Dec. 15, 2015
ARLINGTON, Va., 15 Dec. 2015. Electronic warfare (EW) experts at Leidos Holdings Inc. in Reston, Va., are continuing their work to find ways to detect and counter digitally programmable adaptive radar systems that have unknown behaviors and agile waveform characteristics.
ARLINGTON, Va., 15 Dec. 2015.Electronic warfare (EW) experts at Leidos Holdings Inc. in Reston, Va., are continuing their work to find ways to detect and counter digitally programmable adaptive radar systems that have unknown behaviors and agile waveform characteristics.

Officials of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., announced a $12.9 million contract modification to Leidos Monday for the DARPA Adaptive Radar Countermeasures (ARC) program, which seeks to develop EW capability to counter hostile adaptive radar systems based on their over-the-air signals.

Leidos originally won a DARPA ARC contract in March 2013 before the company's split from Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC). Vadum Inc. in Raleigh, N.C.; Helios Remote Sensing Systems Inc. in Rome, N.Y.; and Michigan Tech Research Institute (MTRI) in Ann Arbor, Mich.; the BAE Systems Electronic Systems segment in Merrimack, N.H.; and Systems and Technology Research (STR) in Woburn, Mass., also are involved in the DARPA ARC program.

Adaptive radar uses digital technology to change its characteristics dynamically to adapt to changes in its environment. In particular, adaptive radar is being designed to counter the effects of EW countermeasures and other RF interference.

Leidos has been working with Exelis Inc. in Clifton, N.J., on evolving advanced technology development in the DARPA ARC program. Harris Corp. completed its acquisition of Exelis last May.

Related: Programmable radar and adaptive electronic warfare take center stage

Exelis is demonstrating Leidos software algorithms with an Exelis EW hardware-in-the-loop test environment as an enhanced capability to electronically defend against emerging radar threats.

This phase of the ARC program consists of two major elements: the Leidos-led development of new software processing techniques, with a prototype module within a full rate production system. This process is expected to lead to a new, adaptive EW protection system for airborne platforms within the next five years.

Today's airborne EW systems are proficient at identifying analog radar systems that operate on fixed frequencies. Once they identify a hostile radar system, EW aircraft can apply a preprogrammed countermeasure technique.

Yet the job of identifying modern digitally programmable radar variants using agile waveforms is becoming more difficult. Leidos and the other ARC contractors are working to enable systems to generate effective countermeasures automatically against new, unknown, or ambiguous radar signals in near real-time.

The program involves new processing techniques and algorithms that characterize enemy radar systems, jam them electronically, and assess the effectiveness of the applied countermeasures.

Related: Electronic warfare to be part of all military operations

The goal of the DARPA ARC program is to develop ways to counter adaptive radar threats quickly based on over-the-air observable signals.

Threats of particular interest include ground-to-air and air-to-air phased array radars capable of performing several different functions, such as surveillance, cued target acquisition, tracking, non-cooperative target identification, and missile tracking. These kinds of radar systems are agile in beam steering, waveform, coding, and pulse repetition interval.

Key challenges are how to isolate signals clearly amid hostile, friendly, and neutral signals; figuring out the threat the signal poses; and jamming the signal.

Today's airborne electronic warfare (EW) systems match enemy radar signals and determine appropriate countermeasures based a list of known threats, but are limited when enemy signals are ambiguous or not on the list.

Modern enemy radar systems, however, are becoming digitally programmable with unknown behaviors and agile waveform, so identifying and jamming them is becoming increasingly difficult.

Related: Electromagnetic spectrum sharing among radar and communications systems moving forward

Things will get worse in the future as radars develop the ability to sense their environment and adapt their transmission characteristics and pulse processing algorithms to defeat attempts to jam them.

The objective of the ARC program is to enable EW systems to generate effective countermeasures automatically against new, unknown, or ambiguous radar signals as they are encountered.

Leidos is developing new processing techniques and algorithms to counter adaptive radar threats through real-time analysis of the threat's over-the-air observable properties and behaviors.

The program is developing a closed-loop system with signal analysis and characterization, countermeasure synthesis, and countermeasure effectiveness assessment. The system not only will be able to learn automatically to counter new radar threats, but also will enable human operators to command and receive feedback from the system.

DARPA officials say that software algorithms developed under the ARC program most likely will be used in existing or planned EW systems.

Related: DARPA seeks to speed RF and microwave array development for radar, comms, and SIGINT

The ARC system should be able to isolate agile unknown radar threats in dense, complex electromagnetic environments with friendly, hostile and neutral RF emitters; counter these new radar threats; provide real-time feedback on countermeasure effectiveness; counter several threats at once; support single-platform or distributed, multi-platform operations; support autonomous and human-in-the-loop operation; and use a standards-based, modular, open and extensible software architecture. The system also should be able to store and download new knowledge and countermeasures for post-mission analysis.

The ARC program is a five-year effort. The first 30 months focused on algorithm development and component level testing; the second 18 months focuses on systems development; and the remaining two years is for building a real-time ARC prototype.

On this contract modification Leidos will do the work in Reston, Va.; Bridgewater, Va.; Clifton, N.J.; and Chapel Hill, N.C., and should be finished by December 2017.

For more information contact Leidos online at www.leidos.com, or DARPA at www.darpa.mil.

About the Author

John Keller | Editor

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.

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