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  • Surprises from the Navy's Next Generation Jammer Competition
    Posted by David A. Fulghum 4:46 PM on May 13, 2010

    Clues about secret designs for the Navy’s Next Generation Jammer competition are emerging.

    Technology involved in the various concepts includes broad-band, electronically-scanned arrays, advanced radars, digitized exciters and techniques generators to produce exotic waveforms and algorithms for electronic warfare. Perhaps most importantly, the concepts and technology maturity being built today are stepping stones to wider apertures, cooler amplifiers and faster processing, say aerospace industry officials involved in the competition. Initial operating capability for NGJ in the EA-18G Growler fleet is 2018. The F-35 is to add its advanced electronic attack capability in a block 5 aircraft sometime after 2020.

    “The technology suite that goes into Next Generation Jammer [NGJ] is relevant to other solutions,” agrees Rick Martin, Boeing’s director for electronic warfare at Phantom Works.

    “[NGJ could] be a major improvement because for the first time we [might] bring broadband ESA [electronically scanned arrays] into the [EA-18G Growler] platform,” says Eduardo Palacio, vice president of programs for ITT’s electronic system division.

    Boeing and ITT officials won’t talk about the key antenna technology involved in their NGJ pod design, but others with insight into the program say that it involves a sophisticated arrangement of six, active electronically scanned arrays [AESA]. The new, elongated-hexagon antenna is designed to create a continuous, scalloped and overlapping, 360 degree coverage area with less range and accuracy degradation at array join points.

    The antenna design overcomes the intrinsic weakness of AESA apertures which is its field of regard of less than 160 degrees for each straight line of transmitter/receiver apertures. So far combinations of two (Australian Wedgetail), three (Chinese AWACS design) and four (Israeli and Singapore air forces AEWC aircraft) planar arrays have been built, but where the straight arrays end or meet, there is a drop off in radar coverage.

    The Boeing/ITT NGJ package will be linked, but separate from the Growler’s AESA radar. Other designs in the competition include the AESA as part of the NGJ design. Critics contend that the AESA has a far different duty cycle (pulses instead of continuous power) than a jammer/electronic attack system and a limited field of regard.

    “At some point, the radar will run into its limitations,” Palacio says. That could be the amount of power required for a target or the number of targets that need to be handled. “The mission of NGJ will be to deal with a large number of threats [by using] a large amount of RF energy and complete focus on the [EA] mission,” he says.

    “The Growler has a very sophisticated AESA radar, but how many task are you going to place on that radar and [its limited] field of regard,” Martin says. “The radar is looking forward and ideally you would like the pilot to use it to sterilize the environment and protect the aircraft with air-to-air targeting. The aircrew in the back would have a full-360 degree jamming capability with multiple, simultaneous beams engaging surface and air-to-air targets [such as missiles or aircraft].”

    ITT and Boeing are teamed for the NGJ contest. Other competitors include Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems. A prototype demonstration phase starts in Jan. 2011.

    Tags: ar99, NGJ, F-35, EA-18G, jamming, cyber-attack

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