BAE Systems to develop advanced electronic warfare (EW) to counter enemy programmable radar

ARLINGTON, Va., 22 June 2016. Electronic warfare (EW) experts at BAE Systems are moving forward with the second phase of a U.S. military research program to find ways to detect and counter digitally programmable radar systems that have unknown behaviors and agile waveform characteristics.

Jun 22nd, 2016
BAE Systems to develop advanced electronic warfare (EW) to counter enemy programmable radar
BAE Systems to develop advanced electronic warfare (EW) to counter enemy programmable radar
ARLINGTON, Va., 22 June 2016.Electronic warfare (EW) experts at BAE Systems are moving forward with the second phase of a U.S. military research program to find ways to detect and counter digitally programmable radar systems that have unknown behaviors and agile waveform characteristics.

Officials of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., have announced a $13.4 million contract modification to the BAE Systems Electronic Systems segment in Merrimack, N.H., to move to phase-three of the Adaptive Radar Countermeasures (ARC) program.

BAE Systems engineers completed algorithm development and component level testing in phase-one of the ARC program. In the second phase they completed algorithm integration into an EW payload along with extensive hardware-in-the-loop testing involving thousands of tests against advanced closed-radar simulators.

Now BAE Systems experts move into the third and final phase of the DARPA ARC program in which they will work to increase the complexity and realism of ARC testing. The program is expected to be complete in 2018, and then BAE Systems and U.S. military experts will move ARC-developed technologies into existing EW systems. BAE Systems originally won a 30-month $36.7 million ARC phase-one contract in March 2013.

In addition to BAE Systems, ARC phase-one contractors are Leidos in Reston, Va.; Vadum Inc. in Raleigh, N.C.; Helios Remote Sensing Systems Inc. in Rome, N.Y.; Michigan Tech Research Institute (MTRI) in Ann Arbor, Mich.; and Systems and Technology Research (STR) in Woburn, Mass. Leidos won a $12.9 million ARC phase-three contract last December.

Related: 12-company $800 million Navy project seeks to share radar, EW, and communications antennas

The DARPA ARC program seeks to develop EW capabilities to identify, characterize, and adapt to advanced and complex radars. The program seeks to counter enemy radar by sensing its environment and automatically adapting to attempts to jam it.

The program is using machine learning technology coupled with existing EW systems to learn in real-time what adversary radar is doing and then on-the-fly create a new jamming profile. The program's goal is to develop ways of countering adaptive radar threats quickly based on over-the-air observable signals.

Today's airborne EW systems are proficient at identifying known 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. The six ARC contractors will work to enable systems to generate effective countermeasures automatically against new, unknown, or ambiguous radar signals in near real-time.

Related: Navy ramping-up procurements of Mercury's radar-spoofing digital electronic warfare (EW)

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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 to the ARC contractors 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.

Related: Raytheon wins billion-dollar contract to build 15 NGJ airborne electronic warfare (EW) pods

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

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 six companies involved in the ARC program is to enable EW systems to generate effective countermeasures automatically against new, unknown, or ambiguous radar signals as they are encountered.

The organizations will try to develop 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.

Related: Navy orders 48 sophisticated electronic warfare jammers for Navy F/A-18 Hornet jet fighter-bombers

The program will develop 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 the ARC contractors developed in the program's first phase most likely will be used in existing or planned EW systems.

The ARC program 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.

On the contract modification announced this week, BAE Systems will do the work Nashua, N.H., and Burlington, Mass., and should be finished by June 2018. For more information contact BAE Systems Electronic Systems online at www.baesystems.com, or DARPA at www.darpa.mil.

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