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Pentagon may lean toward ASPJ resurrection.

After dealing what appeared to be a mortal blow to the ALQ-165 Airborne Self-Protection Jammer (ASPJ), both the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Navy have taken the first tentative steps toward reviving the program.

While the ASPJ's future remains uncertain, recent actions indicate that the Pentagon may be rallying behind the program.

For example, Deputy Defense Secretary William Perry has requested a review of the ASPJ effort. Part of this review will include a study by Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition John Deutch of how the system could be tested on F-14 or retested on F-18 aircraft.

RADM Philip Anselmo, director of aviation plans and requirements (N880) within the Navy, said his office had delivered information concerning the parameters for such tests, including timelines, to Deutch's group. However, he would not speculate when the group would complete its study or when Perry would receive the results of the overall review.

Meanwhile, Admiral Anselmo said that ASPJ compatibility tests on the F-14D could provide the opportunity to demonstrate system improvements that might jump start the program. He reported the Navy and OSD are studying this option, including the development of strategies to fund the compatibility effort.

The ASPJ's present troubles began when it failed to pass all 22 criteria established for successful performance under operational test and evaluation (OT&E). While the system met 18 of the requirements, shortfalls appeared in reliability/maintainability, built-in-test (BIT), human factors (relating, at least in part, to the presentation of information on the F/A-18 head-up display) and the demonstration of a 30% increase in aircraft survivability. Acting on its interpretation of congressional budget language and under heavy pressure from Senators David Pryor of Arkansas and William Roth of Delaware, the Navy terminated the program.

However, there appears to be some question concerning whether the termination language in the procurement funding -- which stated that in the event that the ASPJ didn't successfully complete OT&E, funds could only be spent to terminate the program -- also applies to leftover R&D funds. These are the funds the Navy has marked for the F-14D tests.

Admiral Anselmo, who appears to be a strong proponent of the system, said in a recent interview that successful completion of the F-14D compatibility tests could revitalize the program. Besides proving the system could be flown on the Tomcat, the tests would give the Navy and ASPJ contractors ITT and Westinghouse the opportunity to demonstrate that they had addressed the system's reliability/maintainability and BIT shortfalls.

With corrections to half of the OT&E failures demonstrated under the F-14D tests, and with the human factors issue addressable in conjunction with F/A-18 manufacturer McDonnell Douglas, Admiral Anselmo said he would strongly recommend that the ASPJ be retested against the 30% survivability improvement criteria.

The admiral may find himself in a unique position to follow the program to that next step. He has been tapped as the next head of the Navy's Operational Test and Evaluation Force (OPTEVFOR), the organization which performed last year's ASPJ OT&E and undoubtedly would execute any retesting.

OPTEVFOR has faced steady criticism from some corners of the EW community concerning its conduct of the ALQ-165's OT&E. Many of these attacks have focused on the baseline OPTEVFOR established for low-altitude testing of the ASPJ. In defining the simulated integrated air defense system (IADS) through which the test aircraft would fly, the test director assumed that suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) strikes and other outside countermeasures would significantly degrade the capabilities of the IADS. Flying through the weakened threat environment, the baseline aircraft -- flying without countermeasures -- achieved a very high survivability rating (over 90%, according to some sources). Such a baseline, critics suggest, made it difficult if not impossible for the ASPJ to provide a 30% increase in survivability. It also did not accurately reflect the potential real-world environment which the F/A-18 might face, the critics claim.

In the face of these attacks, Admiral Anselmo defended the competency of OPTEVFOR, saying, "I think Admiral Hill |the current head of OPTEVFOR~ and his staff have done an admirable job." He further said that testing systems like the ASPJ against the full range of threats presents a difficult challenge because not all threats can be replicated. Faced with such a situation, the test director has to make some hard choices in defining an adequate test regime -- including the density of the threat environment.

However, the admiral did allow that the degraded threat environment may not have been an accurate picture of every scenario the F/A-18 is likely to face -- particularly if it is part of the first wave of aircraft into a battle area. He suggested the ASPJ should be tested against "the full range of threats" under scenarios similar to those encountered during Operation Desert Storm.

While acknowledging that even with a different baseline the 30% mark would be difficult to reach (the ASPJ provided a 7% to 10% increase in survivability during OT&E), Admiral Anselmo expressed confidence that the system would pass. "We do have some systems that can compete in that area," he said. "But no system provides the capability of the ASPJ."
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Title Annotation:EC Monitor; ALQ-165 Airborne Self-Protection Jammer
Author:Hardy, Stephen M.
Publication:Journal of Electronic Defense
Date:Jun 1, 1993
Words:863
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