Navy’s Next Generation Jammer Enters Next Phase Lead

An EA-18G Growler of Electronic Attack Squadron VAQ-138 aircraft takes off following a stop on Crete returning to Whidbey Island, Wash., after a six-month deployment to Iraq. The Growler uses ALQ-99 pods and is the target platform for the NGJ.

The Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) Next Generation Jammer (NGJ) program office said it expects to release a Request For Proposals on the NGJ Technology Development (TD) phase this summer. The NGJ Airborne Electronic Attack (AEA) system is meant to replace the ALQ-99 jamming pods now on the EA-18G Growler and achieve Initial Operational Capability in 2020. With a Milestone A decision and TD contract award in third quarter 2013, competing contractors will prototype technologies for Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD). A Milestone B decision and single EMD contract award are due in 2015. EMD testing is expected to prove the Next Generation Jammer ready for fielding and start Low Late Initial Production in 2018.

BAE, ITT/Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon received NGJ Technology Maturation (TM) contracts in 2010. They continue to build and test components and scaled subsystems. The TD phase starts system-level prototyping and testing. NAVAIR has released a draft Performance Specification and the draft Statement of Work for industry comment.

The NGJ will enable the EA-18G to engage the radars, communications and data links of Integrated Air Defense Systems. Compared to the high- and low-band pods developed for the EA-6B Prowler and inherited by the Growler, the new system aims to increase dramatically Effective Radiated Power for significantly greater standoff ranges. The program office notes the jammer will also provide better spectral and spatial agility and precision than legacy systems to improve AEA capabilities against a wide variety of radio frequency targets. (EA-6Bs have been credited publicly with the ability to defeat Improvised Explosive Devices with RF initiators.)

The EA-18G is the only platform now planned for Next Generation Jammer integration. The Program Office explains that while scalable NGJ technologies lend themselves to other platforms, none has been identified or funded. The new jammer nevertheless promises the Growler improved interoperability and increased target capacity to deny, degrade and deceive RF systems. It may work in distributed AEA scenarios with mixed platforms such as Miniature Air Launched Decoy-Jammer, Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile and Unmanned Aircraft Systems. A Growler Electronic Warfare Officer working the NGJ will be able to evaluate tactical inputs from on- and off-board sources to control Electronic Warfare responses. According to the NGJ Program Office, future Electromagnetic Battle Management (EMBM) techniques will maximize AEA coordination and effectiveness against networked, centrally controlled threats. ALQ-99 pods have been upgraded over time with new transmitters and other improvements. The Next Generation Jammer leverages the rapidly upgradeable jammer technique paradigm begun with the ALQ-99. However, a new Open System architecture will allow NGJ future growth to meet the anticipated threats with easier, less expensive hardware and software updates. Improved health and maintenance capabilities will also optimize NGJ availability in the fleet.

NAVAIR has developed a comprehensive NGJ test plan starting in Fiscal 2016 and culminating in an Operational Test (OT) in Fiscal 2019. Testing starts with anechoic chamber and on-aircraft tests at Patuxent River Naval Air Test Center, Md., to prove the system can meet design specifications and operate on the EA-18G. Operational Testing to validate warfighting and readiness capabilities will draw on laboratories and test aircraft at Naval Air Warfare Centers China Lake and Point Mugu, Calif. The program office notes that because NGJ represents new technology and a substantial increase in output power, several electronic warfare chambers, laboratories and specialty facilities are being upgraded. The anechoic chamber of the Air Combat Environment Test and Evaluation Facility/Advanced Systems Integration Laboratory (ACETEF/ASIL) at Patuxent River, for example, is being modified for NGJ tests starting in Fiscal 2017. Point Mugu will use a High-Power Electronic Attack Technique Radiation (HEATR) chamber to evaluate pod-level technique generation. Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane in Indiana will test the reliability/supportability of the pods using specially designed high power test chambers.

Navy Squadron VX-23 at NAS Patuxent River will fly aeromechanical and mission system testing on an EA-18G in the Atlantic Test Range. Early aeromechanical testing will start in late Fiscal 2016 and run through Fiscal 2018. Squadron VX-31 at China Lake will perform software development testing and mission system testing out on the Echo Range with additional threat simulations for beam characterization. Frank Colucci


IFE Joint Venture

Thales and China Electronics Technology Avionics Co. signed a joint venture agreement in March to support the integration of Thales TopSeries in-flight entertainment system into the new C919 single-aisle commercial aircraft, manufactured by Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC).

The joint venture operations are expected to begin in this year, following the approval by the relevant authorities, the companies said. The 156-190-seat C919 will first take flight in 2014 with aircraft deliveries scheduled to begin in 2016.

Thales said its system will be a scalable platform offering services ranging from interactive audio capability through to full in-seat on-demand services, with an emphasis on minimizing weight, cost and power consumption. Future evolution of the system will likely include wireless networks and connectivity, Thales said.

The companies said this joint venture takes C919 as the first initiative, and sells in-flight entertainment and connectivity systems and equipment to COMAC and other Chinese OEMs. In addition, based on customer requirements, the joint venture will provide products and system integration in support of Thales’s core IFEC business to related aircraft worldwide, the companies said.

“The global strength of Thales Group and our investment and growth strategy in partnership with both CETCA and COMAC is a strong combination that will ultimately change the landscape of the civil aerospace marketplace in China. We fully expect that there will be excellent demand for the C919 in China and we are proud to be part of this business arrangement,” said Olivier Guibert, president, Thales China and North Asia region.

“C919 program is just the start. China’s civil aviation industry is under fast development and the partnership with Thales has great potential,” said Zeng Li, general manager of CETCA.

During the next 20 years, the China market is forecast to deliver 4,330 new aircraft with 71 percent being single aisle aircraft (excluding retrofit aircraft). Thales said it believes the joint venture will position it to leverage and evolve current technologies that optimize offerings for the single aisle and regional markets.

L-3 Buys Training Assets

L-3 Communications announced in April it will pay $132 million to acquire the assets of Thales Training & Simulation’s civil aircraft simulation and training business, based in Crawley, U.K. The business, which employs about 400 people, manufactures commercial flight simulation equipment, with an installed base of more than 540 simulators and a significant global customer roster. The business also operates a training center in Asia. Its advanced civil aircraft simulators are FAA, ICAO and EASA compliant.

“With this acquisition, L-3 will strengthen its existing military training and simulation business by adding full flight simulator capability and expanding into the civil simulation market. The business, when combined with our existing military training and simulation business, will enable L-3 to offer a full range of total training system solutions to military and commercial customers,” said Michael T. Strianese, L-3’s chairman, president and CEO. “The result for L-3 will be a diversified and expanded simulation and training business and an increased global presence and growth outlook.”


MQ-9 Flies With ADS-B

NASA’s Ikhana, a modified MQ-9 Predator B, glides in for landing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

An Ikhana MQ-9 unmanned aircraft system (UAS) equipped with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) capabilities flew for the first time in March, as part of a collaborative effort between NASA and FAA.

The NASA Dryden Flight Research Center’s Ikhana, a modified General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-9 Predator B, performed the three-hour flight test on March 15 at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

NASA said the flight was the first time an unmanned aircraft as large as Ikhana with a 66-foot wingspan, a takeoff weight of more than 10,000 pounds, and a cruising altitude of 40,000 feet has flown while equipped with ADS-B. It also was the first flight of hardware for the NASA Aeronautics research project known Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration in the National Airspace System (UAS in the NAS), which is a key issue related to FAA’s NextGen airspace modernization initiative. Mandates regarding the UAS integration into the NAS was included in this year’s FAA Reauthorization legislation.

“ADS-B is a cornerstone capability required in the NextGen, and understanding its performance and suitability for integrating unmanned aircraft into the national airspace system is critical to the overall goals of the project,” said Sam Kim, deputy manager of integrated test and evaluation for NASA’s UAS in the NAS Project.

NASA said the Ikhana flight kicked off a series of tests in which researchers will collect ADS-B data while performing representative air traffic control-directed maneuvers. As part of a collaborative effort, FAA’s William J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City, N.J., recorded ADS-B data from the flight and will help analyze the performance of the onboard system. Researchers also evaluated new ADS-B laptop software for displaying surrounding air traffic information to the UAS pilots on the ground, according to NASA.

The UAS in the NAS program, which was launched in 2011, is designed to contribute capabilities to reduce technical barriers related to the safety and operational challenges of unmanned and passenger-carrying airplanes sharing the same air space, according to NASA. The program falls under the Integrated Systems Research Program office managed at NASA. Headquarters by the agency’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate. NASA’s four aeronautics research centers Dryden, Ames Research Center, Langley Research Center and Glenn Research Center — are part of the technology development project.


Cockpit Upgrade

The U.S. Navy awarded Lockheed Martin a $1.05 billion, five-year contract to provide more than 200 digital cockpits and integrated mission systems and sensors for the Navy MH-60R “Romeo” and MH-60S “Sierra” helicopters.

“U.S. Navy crews operating the 300-plus MH-60 Romeo and Sierra helicopters already in the fleet understand just how critical these aircraft are to protecting our ships from surface and undersea threats,” said Rear Adm. Paul Grosklags, U.S. Naval Air Systems vice commander. “This contract represents the Navy’s commitment to build and field the most technologically advanced maritime helicopter fleet in the world.”

Specifically, the multi-year contract includes 162 cockpits, integrated missions systems and sensors for MH-60R “Romeo,” an anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare helicopter. It also funds 62 digital cockpits to complete the Navy’s program of record for Sierra aircraft, used for ship-to-ship cargo resupply, search and rescue, and close-in defense of Navy ships. A multi-year procurement contract such as this one must meet rigorous criteria before being approved by Congress, including being able to demonstrate double-digit cost savings.

“This contract award ensures uninterrupted, on-time deliveries of the MH-60R and MH-60S helicopter to the U.S. Navy fleet,” said Dan Spoor, vice president of aviation systems for Lockheed Martin’s Mission Systems & Sensors business. “Plus the multi-year structure, versus an annual contract, allows us to provide our customer with more than 10 percent savings annually, surpassing Pentagon cost predictions.”

Lockheed Martin provides the digital cockpit common to the MH-60R and MH-60S, and integrates the mission systems and sensors aboard the MH-60R helicopter in Owego, N.Y.


â–¶ AAI Unmanned Aircraft Systems won the competitive Mid-Endurance Unmanned Aircraft Systems (MEUAS) II award from the U.S. Special Operations Command. The three-year, $600 million award includes support operations using AAI’s Aerosonde Small Unmanned Aircraft System. The Aerosonde SUAS incorporates a heavy-fuel engine and a single electro-optic/infrared payload. It utilizes AAI’s one-piece Launch and Recovery Trailer and the Expeditionary Ground Control Station for expeditionary land- and sea-based operations.

â–¶ Vision Systems International (VSI), a joint venture between Elbit Systems of America and Rockwell Collins, has been awarded a $19.8 million contract for the delivery and engineering support of Night Vision Cueing Display systems. VSI is expected to deliver 100 systems by 2013.

â–¶ GOL Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes will deploy Class 2 electronic flight bags (EFB) from SITA, and its technology partner Flightman, on its fleet of 130 Boeing 737-NGs. This five-year contract also includes SITA e-Aircraft Application Services.

Receive the latest avionics news right to your inbox