• Tue. Jun 21st, 2022

Royal Australian Air Force airmen conduct NGJ-MB training with US Navy sailors.

ByJanice K. Merrill

May 5, 2022

US Navy sailors alongside Royal Australian Air Force pilots began their second round of training to familiarize themselves with the AN/ALQ-249 Next Generation Jammer Mid-Band (NGJ-MB) modules. The training event marks a steady accumulation of skills in handling and maintaining the system ahead of the jamming module’s commissioning in the coming years. The latest event also marked the first time US Navy maintainers worked with officials from the Royal Australian Air Force, a future operator of the NGJ module family.

The six-week training event lasted from February to March this year and involved critical maintenance tasks on NGJ-MB modules manufactured by Raytheon. According to a NAVAIR press release, the members went through step-by-step procedures following the jammer’s manual which involved the removal and installation of 60 components, including the jammer arrays, pumps and actuators. This hands-on training event enables fleet members to provide valuable information to government and industry product support teams.

This event was the first time Royal Australian Air Force airmen had hands-on experience with the jamming module. “It’s really invaluable for us Australians to be here now, and although we won’t get the pods for a few years, we can take [the training] come back and highlight the issues now, so that we are better prepared for this,” said RAAF Chief Airman Adrian Bailey. “It’s very different from how we operate ALQ-99 modules and it’s good to be a step ahead.”

The next generation jammer

An exploded diagram showing the interior of the Next Generation Jammer-Mid Band. Source: Ministry of Defense

The next-generation jammer replaces the US Navy’s venerable ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming System (TJS), which has been in Navy service since the Vietnam War. The ALQ-99 was originally fitted to the Navy and Marine EA-6B Prowler and the Air Force EF-111 Raven, today the system is only used on the EA-18G Growler. The ALQ-99 is said to be capable of performing various electronic warfare missions such as electronic attack (EA) and electronic protection (EP), the ALQ-99 system is separated into two modules that allow the aircraft equipped to cover low and high radar spectra. This allows the aircraft to jam anything from long-range surveillance to surface-to-air missile fire control radar systems. Although the ALQ-99 went through several iterations, the system reached the limits of its design, and the pod’s internals fell behind the adversary’s EW and radar capabilities.

As the successor to the ALQ-99, the NGJ will operate as three different modules that operate in the low, mid, and high bands. When equipped with the NGJ, the EA-18G will be used to perform missions such as remote/in-escort escort jamming, modified escort jamming, suppressing enemy air defenses, signal gathering and electronic intelligence, communications jamming and destruction support. enemy air defenses.

These requirements for the NGJ were driven by advances in adversarial systems. In the past, the ALQ-99 was relegated to the core of Electronic Attack (EA) and Electronic Protection (EP) functions against slow-evolving threats. Today, the proliferation of commercial solid-state electronics in the hands of potential adversaries has increased the number of threats in the EW spectrum, from new radars supporting Surface Air systems to GPS and communications jamming. theater-wide. Together, these threats have increased the demands on aircraft like the Growler.

Two next-generation jammer midband modules, attached to an EA-18G Growler, undergo testing in the anechoic chamber at the Air Combat Environment Test and Evaluation Facility at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland (US Navy photo)

To survive in the future EW environment, the NGJ will improve the TJS ALQ-99 by focusing on three key aspects;

  • Increase in effective isotropic radiated power (EIRP)
  • Move to Open Systems Architecture (OSA)
  • Take advantage of advances in solid-state electronics

Recent advances in electronics miniaturization will allow the NGJ to feature more powerful electronics, the system will have access to a multitude of jamming techniques which can be loaded onto the pod with software updates. This contrasts with the ALQ-99 which would be loaded with a limited number of techniques hard-coded onto Application-Specific Integrated Circuits (ASIC) chips. These ASICs would take 90 days to manufacture and design, while new software-defined techniques can be designed and loaded into the pod in just hours.

Advances in areas of radar technology such as gallium nitride (GaN) emitters will allow the NGJ to have an effective isotropically radiated power of greater magnitude than the ALQ-99. Beyond an increase in EIRP, Active Electronically Scanned Arrays (AESA) will unlock multi-functional capabilities for the NGJ, allowing the system to be used as a radar and communications jammer, communications node and collection of highly sensitive electronic signals or information. pod. As a jammer, the system will be much more effective thanks to its AESA network, it will be able to jam multiple transmitters at longer ranges and fool enemy radars more effectively than the old mechanically scanned antenna of the ALQ- 99.

Engineers are adhering to COVID-19 safety protocols while continuing to test the US Navy’s Next Generation Jammer Mid-Band system. (US Navy photo)

Finally, the adoption of open systems architecture requirements will tie these aspects together and ensure that the NGJ will be easy to upgrade due to its modular software and hardware design. The flexibility and room for growth built into its design will allow for the incorporation of new military and commercial technologies as it matures. This will allow the multi-billion dollar pod family to be supported in the future, even as threats evolve beyond what we currently know.