Home » Aviation » L3, Northrop Selected for Next Generation Jammer Work; Program Stalled After Raytheon Protest


L3, Northrop Selected for Next Generation Jammer Work; Program Stalled After Raytheon Protest

An artist’s rendering of a Raytheon AN/ALQ-249 mid-range jammer on an EA-18G Growler. Raytheon Image

The next phase of the Navy’s effort to replace its decades-old ALQ-99 jamming systems on its fleet of electronic warfare aircraft is in a holding pattern amid a protest from a company cut from the competition, USNI News has learned.

As part of rapid acquisition push for the new jamming technology, the Navy is splitting up the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ) ALQ-99 replacement work into three increments based on the frequencies the system must block – high-band, mid-band and low-band – to help shield U.S. aircraft from anti-air radar systems.

In 2013, Raytheon won a $276 million award for the first portion of the NGJ project – the ALQ-249 mid-band jamming part of the new system – and was awarded an additional $1.2 billion for the work in 2016.

In late 2017, Naval Air Systems Command announced a “demonstration of existing technology” contract to shape how it would pursue the low-band increment. The work would create “[a] demonstration that will lead to an assessment of the maturity level of the technologies that might be applied to a low band jammer pod,” a NAVAIR spokesperson told USNI News in a statement on Tuesday. “This will help inform the appropriate acquisition strategy of the program.”

Last month, L3 and a team of Northrop Grumman and Harris were selected to move forward from a field of four competitors that also included Raytheon and a Lockheed Martin and Cobham team, USNI News has learned. Soon afterwards, Raytheon filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office, arguing it should have been selected to move forward with the low-band jammer effort.

Both L3 and the Northrop Grumman/Harris team confirmed that their low-band tech was selected for potential further study by NAVIAR but referred additional questions to the Navy due to the ongoing protest from Raytheon.

“We have a mature and exceedingly capable offering for Next-Generation Jammer Low Band,” a Northrop spokesman told USNI News in a statement. “Northrop Grumman stands ready to demonstrate that technology.”

USNI News understands a Lockheed Martin/Cobham team was not selected for further study. A Lockheed spokesperson referred questions to the Navy citing the protest.

In a short statement, Raytheon implied the Navy did not fully take into account the benefits of the company’s existing investment into the ALQ-249 mid-band jamming technology.

“We believe there were errors in the government’s evaluation,” Dana Carroll, a Raytheon spokeswoman, told USNI News in a statement. “Our low-risk, open architecture pod effectively and affordably counters modern threats while maximizing reuse of proven technology and taxpayer investment.”

The GAO has until October to reach a decision on Raytheon protest.

The Next Generation Jammer program has been a weak point the Navy’s push to revitalize its aerial electronic warfare portfolio after the service shrugged off developing an improved capability for years in favor of other priorities. The program was placed on the backburner for years while the U.S. was mostly engaged in conflicts with largely uncontested airspace.

However, with the national defense focus of “great power competition,” along with accelerated capabilities in both Chinese and Russian radar systems and anti-air warfare systems, the NGJ capability was given new importance and was placed on a list of accelerated acquisition programs that was overseen by former Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall. That emphasis to improve the electronic warfare capability has carried over into the current administration.

Last month, Capt. Michael Orr told reporters at the Farnborough Airshow that early iterations of the system would begin aerial testing next year and the entire system was set to reach an initial operational capability sometime in 2022, according to Breaking Defense.

The gradual introduction of the NGJ systems onto U.S. and Australian Boeing EA-18G Growlers will initially augment the ALQ-99 before eventually replacing the legacy capability, according to NAVAIR.

  • Centaurus

    Why doesn’t the Navy just put a monkey and a hand crank static generator in F-18G’s pod and send it up ?
    That might be an upgrade.

    • RunningBear

      Amen!
      🙂

  • airider

    Ah yes, another protest. Acquisition leadership keeps saying we need to go faster and to tell them where the barriers are to moving faster. Hey leadership, exhibit A. If we’re not willing to go after the major muscle movements of the acquisition process, then all this talk of speed is a big lie.

  • RunningBear

    The SBug mafia’s little joke!

    If they really wanted to get into EA/EW, why have they not upgraded the AN/APG-79 into something similar to the AN/APG-81 like the F-22 program. “Capabilities of the AN/APG-81 include the AN/APG-77’s air-to-air modes, plus advanced air-to-ground modes, including high resolution mapping, multiple ground moving target indication and track, combat identification, electronic warfare, and ultra high bandwidth communications. The current F-22 production radar is the APG-77v1, which draws heavily on APG-81 hardware and software for its advanced air-to-ground capabilities.”

    Giving them a “real” radar to better interface with the BAE EA/EW Barracuda system. “The F-35 carry active, electronically scanned array (AESA) radars with sophisticated electronic attack capabilities, including false targets, network attack, advanced jamming and algorithm-packed data streams. This system allows the F-35 to reach well-defended targets and suppress enemy radars that threaten the F-35. In addition, the ASQ-239 system provides fully integrated radar warning, targeting support, and self-protection, to detect and defeat surface and airborne threats.”

    Their anemic powered AN/ALQ-99 modules were OK for the cold war, but in today’s environment they are a little long in the tooth. Lieutenant General Jon Davis, the top Marine in charge of aviation, has also expressed skepticism about the need for more Growlers, citing the capabilities offered by the F-35.

    IMHO
    🙂

    • publius_maximus_III

      Streaker, thanks for introducing me to the foggy world of ASEA radar. I am left dumbfounded reading the Wiki article on this term. Seems you could be the very best Top Gun pilot in the universe, and some electronics genius would be able to find a way to cut through your jamming shield to bring you down. I hope we never have to test their best stuff against ours, but know that’s just wishful thinking. Its been nice not having to worry about sophisticated SAMs during decades of low tech adversaries in mountains and deserts. Suddenly we are back in the 21st century. Whoa Nelly!

    • TomD

      Jon Davis seems like a smart man.

  • RobM1981

    I believe a better headline to this story would be “Jammer program jammed…”

    😉

  • proudrino

    So much for rapid acquisition. Maybe the process should have a “no whining” clause (I’m looking at you Raytheon).

  • b2

    More and more of the same buffoonery… this is a 15 year old or more program of record…

    Lets see- Ford class aint optimum- cats,ag, propulsion, aren’t ready, F-35C rattles pilots brains on the cat, jet pilots can’t trust what they are breathing, V-22 as COD?, SuperHornets reaching their life limits because of overhead organic tanking, LCS/Zumwalt buffoonery, no frigates, etc, etc, ad naseum….

    What can they(SECNAV,OPNAV, Syscoms, HASC/SASC) do right re acquisition? Not much. Everything has devolved into a smirk and a joke. I’d like to line them up like the 3 Stooges and give ’em a walking slap!

  • Ser Arthur Dayne

    Is Growling better than Prowling??! The World Wonders…

  • Ed L

    Maybe we should go back to propeller driven aircraft

  • E1 Kabong

    It’s the ASPJ all over again….