The Department of Defense (DOD) needs to continue assessing potential duplication and overlap of the capabilities for its $7 billion investment in a next generation airborne electronic surveillance jamming system, according to a report released Tuesday by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
(Boeing EA-18G fighter jet. Photo, courtesy of Boeing.)
Over the last decade, DOD has been assessing gaps in its airborne electronic attack capabilities, which prevent fighter jets and naval carriers from being detected by enemy radar and missile targeting.
GAO monitored DOD's planning for the NGJ from November 2012 to August 2013 and found that the NGJ, in its primary role of suppressing enemy air defenses, does not overlap with other military services development efforts. But the agency found that DOD's analysis of the technological capabilities of NGJ does not address future overlapping issues.
"However, these analyses do not address potential duplication or overlap between the NGJ and other systems being developed for other roles, such as communications jamming in irregular warfare environments,” the report states.
GAO believes that DOD has not assessed whether the Navy's $7 billion NGJ system will overlap in capabilities with systems being developed by other branches of the military.
For example, Air Force officials told GAO that NGJ will be complimentary to systems that it is developing to improve the airborne attack abilities on its series of fighter jets, including the development of Lockheed Martin's next generation F-35.
The Army is also developing its own jamming system that is less powerful than the NGJ, because the unit wants to "rely on its own airborne electronic attack systems to perform the necessary jamming in support of its ground systems," the report mentions.
Additionally, another military service, the Marine Corps, is developing electronic airborne attack capabilities for each of its Marine Air Ground Task Force commanders.
The report does note though that DOD is using a modular open systems approach to developing the NGJ, so that system components can be modified and replaced in the future. The open systems approach also allows independent suppliers to build components that can plug-in to the existing system, though the agency still believes this approach is not enough to completely prevent redundant spending overall for developing the NGJ.
GAO issued two recommendations for Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel; discuss areas of potential overlap with the Navy and Joint Staff, and include information on the "potentially overlapping capabilities among systems" in its Electronic Warfare Strategy report to Congress. Specifically, the agency wants DOD to address potential overlaps between NGJ and the Electronically Attack Enabled AESA Radar, CEASAR, Intrepid Tiger II and Multi-Function Electronic warfare, all of which are either already equipped on military aircraft or currently in development.
"While none of the new programs planned duplicate NGJ capabilities, new areas of overlap and potential duplication could emerge as these plans continue to evolve," GAO said.