Raytheon has edged out several competitors for the opportunity to develop a new U.S. Navy airborne system to jam enemy radar and communications. But it may be too early for Raytheon to celebrate, as the losing bidders have not ruled out a protest, and long-term funding remains uncertain.
(Boeing EA-18G Growler. Photo, courtesy of Raytheon.)
Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) on July 8 awarded Raytheon a $279.4 million, 22-month technology development (TD) contract for the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ), which is designed to replace the aging ALQ-99 jammer aboard the land- and carrier-based Boeing EA-18G Growler electronic-attack aircraft.
The Pentagon said it expects NGJ to provide “enhanced agility and precision” against advanced threats, greater interoperability with other forces, and “expanded broadband capability for greater threat coverage.” To meet those expectations, Raytheon said it drew on both its weapon system integration experience and its active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar technology.
“The Raytheon team worked diligently to put forth an innovative, next-generation solution that meets current customer requirements and potential future needs,” Raytheon spokeswoman Theresa Huerta said. “We look forward to beginning work on this landmark program.”
But it is unclear whether the contract award will go unchallenged. Asked whether BAE Systems, one of the losing bidders, will file a protest, company spokesman Paul Roberts said “the BAE Systems-led team is disappointed and we are currently considering all of our options.”
The other unsuccessful bidder, a Northrop Grumman-ITT Exelis team, issued a joint statement saying it remains confident that it offered “the lowest risk and technically superior solution. We look forward to the Navy’s de-brief to understand why our offering was not selected." That debrief could occur as early as this week.
Another question mark for the program is funding. David Rockwell, a senior analyst at the Teal Group, believes the Navy could decide to keep using the ALQ-99 jammer for the foreseeable future instead of procuring the new system.
“Unlike the U.S. Air Force, which is stuck with ancient electronic-attack systems, NGJ is a want-to-have, not a must-have, for the Navy,” Rockwell told Avionics. “With or without sequestration, don't expect NGJ production this decade, and don't count on it for next decade either.”
Before the TD contract award, BAE Systems, ITT Exelis, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon all participated in a 33-month technology maturation phase that developed several key technologies for NGJ. ITT Exelis and Northrop Grumman announced last November that they would team for the TD competition.
The Navy said the TD phase will transition mature components into “testable subsystems” and develop a preliminary design for the overall jamming system. The full system will be tested in a subsequent engineering and manufacturing phase, which will last 4 1/2 years. The program’s goal is to start fielding the new jammer in fiscal year 2020.
Raytheon said its Space and Airborne Systems business, based in McKinney, Texas, will lead its TD work with collaboration from Raytheon facilities in El Segundo, Calif.; Forest, Miss.; Dallas; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Largo, Fla.; and Andover, Mass.
Related: Military Avionics News