Thursday, May 12, 2016

SEWIP Update

ComNavOps is often critical of Navy leadership and programs and rightly so.  Navy decision making is so poor as to almost defy belief.  The wrong equipment is pursued.  The wrong policies are implemented.  And so on.  Frankly, it gets tiring and discouraging.  I’d love to present more good news and I do so when I can but the Navy gives me little opportunity.  So, I’m happy to present this bit of good news about the Navy’s Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program (SEWIP).

To refresh your memory, SEWIP is the evolutionary successor to the venerable, and now badly outdated and nearly obsolete SLQ-32 (Slick-32) electronic warfare system mounted on nearly every surface warship.  The old SLQ-32 is an electronic detection and warning system but has little or no ability to defeat threats.  It can see a threat (or could once upon a time) but can’t do anything about it, at least not directly. 

The Navy instituted a series of block upgrades to the system to bring it into the modern age and provide an electronic anti-missile capability.

  • SEWIP Block 1 upgrade addresses obsolescence issues by replacing obsolete parts and installing improved control stations and displays.  It also adds additional threat signal receivers.  The system is in full rate production.

  • SEWIP Block 2 upgrades antennas and receivers and improves the signal processing.  The system is in low rate initial production.  A second IOT&E test is pending after a failed initial test.

  • SEWIP Block 3 provides active signal emissions to defeat incoming missiles.  The system is in development.

  • SEWIP Block 4 is a future upgrade that will provide EO and IR capabilities.

This attention to electronic warfare is long overdue.  Setting aside the tardiness, I fully commend the Navy for implementing this program.  As we’ve documented in other posts, electronic countermeasures have proven far more effective than active missile defenses so this is a case of placing money, effort, time, and resources in a program that will assuredly pay off.


Of course, being a Navy program, there are problems.  DOT&E’s 2015 Annual Report notes that the SEWIP Block 2 upgrade has severe problems detecting and holding target tracks.

“Analysis of the available IOT&E data showed that, while the AN/SLQ-32 EWS equipped with the SEWIP Block 2 upgrade provides more capability in detecting and classifying threat emitters than the legacy AN/SLQ-32 EWS, the system generates multiple tracks from a single emitter source in addition to incorrectly categorizing emitter tracks and an inability to hold them after initial detection. … Until these deficiencies are corrected, the AN/SLQ-32 EWS equipped with the SEWIP Block 2 upgrade will not have operational utility.”

“… will not have operational utility.”  Ouch!  That’s a pretty poor evaluation.  Still, that just means there is more work to do.  At least this work is for a system that meets a need and there is every reason to believe that it will eventually be quite effective.

I’ve said before that I can accept developmental problems (that’s what “development” means!) and growing pains.  What I can’t accept is throwing developmental systems into production or developing systems that have no utility even if they work.  SEWIP is a rare example of a very good, if overdue, decision by Navy leadership combined with a proven need that is historically beneficial and should offer outstanding protection to the fleet.  The only reservation I have is that the Navy is somewhat pushing the production of the units before the development is completed.


  1. I *really* hope they can get SEWIP up and functioning well.

    Given the threats out there, as you stated before, I'd be willing to bet electronic attack is going to be vital, and probably a more economically effective way of dealing with modern threats.

    If you can get it to work, it can give even small ships a realistic level of defense without having to rely on lasers or expendable, expensive, and heavy missiles and their support systems.

    Question: Is this tied into the SSDS? I've read a bit about it, found that DOT&E found it lacking, and heard that the Navy was going to 'work on it' but haven't heard or read anything since.

    1. I've not found anything tying the SSDS directly to anti-torpedo defense though it would seem logical. In short, I don't know.

    2. The Ship Self Defense System failed during LHA(R)/LHA-6 and Self Defense Test Ship IOT&E testing during Dec 2014 and May 2015. ESSM integration is proving problematic.

  2. Its the same BS with the Navy's new anti-aircraft site in Romania. A waste of a billion dollars since the small SM-3s have such limited range that at best they can defense Southern Romania from short range missiles. Selling this as European missile defense is real BS. This is why the EU nations refuse to pay for the system themselves.

    ICBMs and even IRBMs arc some 300 miles overhead, whilst the best and even future SM-3 can only reach 150 miles high. Try to find the max ceiling of the latest SM-3 on the net but there is little, except some strange claim by a guy in Holland that range will soon triple with no details of how. The current ones in Romania are very, very limited. But even if doubled to 300 miles, it could only hit missiles directly overhead. To cover just part of Europe in needs at least 1000 miles like the GBIs in Alaska.

    1. Um ..., you may be confusing the SM-3 with SM-6? Wiki lists the SM-3 Block 1B as having a range of 378 miles and ceiling of 311 miles. The future SM-3 Block IIA is credited with around 3-4 times those numbers.

  3. "will not have operational utility"
    Translated into English, does that mean "doesn't work, and isn't expected to work anytime soon"?

    1. I assume it means that it currently can't perform the function for which it was intended well enough to be operationally useful.

      Presumably, the Navy will address the issues, improve it, and retest it in the second IOT&E. Whether the issues can be fixed or not remains to be seen. DOT&E will let us know!

  4. Yes, and follow the source back to contractor funded promo blog "Breaking Defense" then to that odd guy in Holland who based that on his desktop analysis, not reality.

    Wiki used to say 130 miles. I guess the contractors corrected that to cover their lie. Look for official sources. The best demonstrated is 130 miles. I followed this program for years and they expanded it to the max for the VLS tube and tweaked it to get it from 90 miles to 130 miles. They admitted that was max unless they went to liquid fuel or a longer missile with a launch tube sticking six feet up the deck, and would need both to reach over 300 miles. Those were rejected but they found it easier simply to say it can and change Wiki.

    Then one day it is chosen for European defense and suddenly some guy claims it that three times more range. But look at the Pentagon's big MDA website, any Navy website, and even Raytheon. Lots of details, except nothing on ceiling or range. Read through the test data, the most is 130 miles, but most are around 100 miles. Radar range is an issue too.

    1. You clearly have an axe to grind on this and I'm not going to get involved especially as this is not a post topic. I will, however, keep an eye out for additional information. Good luck to you.

  5. Here is a typical laughable example of this successful program - in fooling the Japanese in 2015.

    US, Japan say first test of Raytheon's new SM-3 missile a success

    "Raytheon said the new SM-3 IIA missile had bigger rocket motors and a more capable kill vehicle that would allow the missile to engage threats sooner and protect larger regions from short- to intermediate-range ballistic missile threats.

    Saturday's test evaluated the performance of the missile's nosecone, steering control, and the separation of its booster, and second and third stages. No intercept was planned, and no target missile was launched, said U.S. and company officials."


    If you are firing a $13 million missile in a key test why not toss an old rocket up and see the result?


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