Saturday, September 24, 2016

Adaptive Electronic Warfare

Here’s an interesting project that caught ComNavOps’ eye.  DARPA is developing an adaptive electronic warfare (EW) software package (1).  The problem with EW in the past has always been that it was only effective against known, pre-programmed threats.  Today, however, many threats use frequency agile emitters with variable characteristics that we have no way of pre-programming for.  To counter this, DARPA is working with industry to create a software EW package that can analyze threats, determine their characteristics in real time, and produce a counter based on histories of what has worked in the past against similar threat profiles.  This is, potentially, a wonderful approach that offers a broad spectrum of counters without the need for perfect knowledge ahead of time. 

Of course, at the early developmental stage, like this, every project sounds great.  The reality is that few such projects actually make it to production.  Still, this is a technology that is well worth pursuing.

The next step is for DARPA to step away and one of the services to adopt and fund the program.  Unfortunately, this is where many potentially worthwhile projects die – not necessarily for lack of technical worthiness but because of politics.  The services each look at the potential project and play poker against each other.  Who will fund it?  If one service wants to use their money for another project, they may pass on it, hoping that another service picks it up, pays to develop it, and then they can hop on board when it’s mature.  Of course, politics means that they may all pass in favor of funding less deserving pet projects that they think have a better chance of getting funded by Congress regardless worthiness.

For example, the Navy has made it clear that they are going to fund the LCS no matter what.  If they come up short on budget because of that, they will not fund this EW project.  Sad but true.

Something like an EW package would be useful across all the services and should be funded at a DoD level, not at the individual service level.

Anyway, this is a potentially useful project.  It’ll be interesting to see if it gets fully developed by anyone.


(1)Defense News website, “Pentagon Looks To Adaptive EW Systems To Thwart Future Adversaries”, Valerie Insinna, 29-Aug-2016,


  1. DARPA have been funding BAE Systems Electronic Systems segment in Merrimack, N.H.and five sub-contractors for the Adaptive Radar Countermeasures (ARC) program. Using machine learning technology coupled with existing EW systems to learn in real time what adversary radar is doing and then on-the-fly create a new jamming profile.

    July 2013 NAVAIR awarded a $279 million contract to Raytheon for the development of the NGJ, New Generation Jammer, with AESA array for EW, coms, radar, SIGINT at the same time, with a data library to read the existing threats or targets (so it will not be using adaptive electronic warfare). It will replace the legacy ALQ-99 pod, the original version dating back to the Vietnam war, used on the EA F18 Growler. BAE Systems lost out to Raytheon for NGJ and lodged protest in 2013 which was upheld by the GAO but NAVAIR still went with Raytheon.

    The NGJ $1 billion EMD 4 1/2 year phase was authorised by Kendall in April even though GAO had highlighted problems with weight, power and integration with the EA F-18G. There will be three increments to cover low, medium and high bands with IOC 2020/1 for Increment 1 (medium) pod. Total program worth $10 billion plus and Raytheon's suggestion that it could be used by the F-35 as it can cover more bands than the installed AESA X band radar currently used as jammer with BAE Systems hardware/software.

  2. Thanks,
    Good informative post,
    This is what i come here to read.
    Much appreciated.

  3. Dumb Question:

    Would this replace the SLQ-32 and its follow ons? Or is this more EA stuff like a next gen jammer?

    1. It could be adapted to just about anything but my sense of it is that it's intended more for the SEAD/Growler type stuff.

  4. This seems like a no brainer. We have a military, particularly a Navy, that is facing ever more dangerous missiles; and doing it with often 70's based EW equipment.

    I honestly think that being able to use EA as a soft kill against missiles is going to become more and more important.

    Even if the standards work perfectly there are only so many missiles and the Pk is only so high. If you're going to be sailing into harms way you have to have effective ways of warding off attacks, or making your hard kill techniques more effective, that don't involve SAM's or CIWS.

    Just IMHO

    1. You deal with aerial/missile attacks by defending in layers. One of those layers is, or ought to be, electronic warfare. For too long, we've ignored that layer to the point that it is currently ineffectual. The first baby steps are being taken to rectify that in the form of the SEWIP upgrades but there is much more that can be done - this post being one possible example.

      CIWS is the last layer.


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