Reshuffling the deck; changing EW faces and places at Wright-Patterson.
Changing EW Faces and Places at Wright-Patterson
If we accept the adage "life is change," then Wright-Patterson AFB, OH, home of the Aeronautical Systems Div. (ASD), is one of the liveliest places around for EW.
Take, for example, the Air Force Electronic Combat Office (AFECO). It was created late last year as a central steeringhouse for EW programs, with a charter to oversee EW planning, development, testing, acquisition, production, costs, support, upgrades and modifications. An unspoken part of its mission was to smooth the sometimes troubled waters flowing between the Systems Command, the Logistics Command and the users. The new organization was located at Wright-Patterson and placed under the leadership of Col Ralph Graham, who also headed the reconnaissance/strike and EW systems (RW) group at ASD. How well Graham would have served in this position we will never know; barely six months after creating AFECO, the Air Force shifted Graham to the top spot at the F-16SPO. Col Michael Bednarz moved into Graham's old office last month.
Then there is the Air Force Wright Aeronautical Laboratories (AFWAL), site of a great deal of EW development work. AFWAL has added a new lab, four new directorates and a new name -- Wright Research and Development Center. Meanwhile, ASD's Electronic Combat Directorate (RWW) appears to be pushing a pair of once-stymied programs out of their ruts and back on the road. In another office, the B-1 SPO and Eaton AIL think they have found the leverage needed to haul the ALQ-161 out of the mud as well. Yet even as this program approaches smooth pavement, the Litton/Loral mess has spilled across its path from the F-16 SPO (welcome to your new office, Col Graham).
Yes sir, there is plenty of life at Wright-Patterson.
WHAT REMAINS UNCHANGED
Of course, not everything has changed at Wright-Patterson. When asked what was new and exciting in EW, Jerry Sutton, deputy program director at the EC and reconnaissance SPO, replied, "Reduced expectations." The era of zero budget growth requires doing more with less to keep existing programs going, he said. Sutton expressed confidence that this could be accomplished; while he does not foresee any major new starts in the near term, he also does not expect any major terminations. However, "there are some [programs] we'd like to see on a firmer funding basis."
Another constant in the EW world is criticism, recently from a string of generals. "I think in EC or any portion of acquisition, you can always improve your process," Sutton responded when asked how he reacted to such criticism. He acknowledged that EW has a credibility problem, which he suggested could be combated most effectively by producing sound systems that meet expectations.
The entire EC community must cooperate in this effort, which begins by approaching user needs realistically, Sutton asserted. "In our zeal to meet the needs we -- and I use that collective `we,' industry as well -- tend to oversell. We have to make sure everybody understands what we're going to deliver and then go deliver it." This does not mean that the development of systems using perhaps untried technology should be avoided, he said, merely that "if we're going for the high-technology end, we have to articulate what are the risks that are involved and manage those risks to the best of our ability. This game is not a sure bet every time -- absolutely not."
If Sutton required evidence to support that statement, he needed only to turn to the F-16 SPO down the hall. The Government Accounting Office (GAO) has thrown a very large bucket of cold water on the Air Force with its recommendation that the service strip Loral of its award for ALR-56M radar warning receivers. While the contract did not come out of his office, Sutton nevertheless felt the chill.
"I think the Air Force got a very good business deal as I understand it on that activity," he said. Sutton described the possibility of having to recompete the program as a "tragic situation," adding, "you could see a major delay in any new procurement -- a minimum of a year. I question whether industry would be willing to invest in another round of proposals and another round of proposals, if that would, let's say, `sanitize' or `purify' the competition. There are a lot of questions I would have before I'd salute smartly to the GAO."
Sutton's summation of the situation may echo the thoughts of many Air Force staffers: "In a lot of respects, it was a very well run program. It's held up as a model of how to award a contract in a rapid period of time. What kind of a message should we be taking from this, from the GAO report?"
DARKNESS AND LIGHT FOR B-1
As reported in JED last month, the GAO also got the attention of the B-1 SPO (see "Mixed Signals for B-1 ECM," July 1989, p. 22). Col John Madia, program director for the B-1, had been looking at the ALR-56M as a potential supplement to the beleaguered ALQ-161; in fact, Rockwell was under contract to study risk reduction and installation details pertaining to the RWR when the GAO put the Air Force on hold. As a result, the study contract has been modified, deleting items specific to the Loral unit and leaving Rockwell to focus on generic issues.
The ALR-56M would provide improved sensitivity, isolation, dynamic range and direction finding, while solving some of the interference problems between the jammer and the RWR, Madia claimed. "What we had with the-161 receiver is a receiver that is not as advanced as the ALR-56M," he explained. "When we talked last summer about the -161 and the problems we had identified in this system, we talked about the receiver-processor chain, wherein the receiver could do so much but it was also overloading the processor. Even if we fixed the receiver -- and we are doing the processing side so that the processor doesn't get overloaded -- it still might not be able to handle things that the -56M will."
However, there is a trade-off for such improved performance. A separate RWR would cause integration problems with the rest of the self-protection suite and would necessitate aircraft modifications. The ALR-56M was designed for tactical fighters, whose mission and environment are significantly different from those anticipated for the B-1; the short waveguide runs for which the RWR was designed may not be possible to duplicate on a large strategic aircraft, for example. Other potential problems include nuclear hardening, antenna location and increased vibration, among others.
A decision to recompete the RWR procurement could set back the B-1's EW effort by several years. Fortunately, Madia does have alternatives. One of these represents some light at the end of what has seemed a very long tunnel for Eaton AIL. As we went to press, the Air Force was expected to grant a contract worth over $500 million for improvements to the ALQ-161's defensive avionics core system, after the vendor's proposal passed a preliminary design review in June. Part of this improvement involves a single frequency encoder capable of discriminating between the receiver spurs that have been the main monkey-wrench in the system and actual threat signals. Thus, while AIL's solution does not remove the troublesome spurs, it does provide a method of bypassing them to enable threat identification.
Madia said that while AIL's single frequency encoder provides "very substantial improvement" in the receiver capabilities of the ALQ-161, it may not be a complete replacement for a separate RWR. Still, the successful preliminary design review represented the latest in a series of steps the company has taken in its climb back toward respectability. The reliability, producibility and configuration control documentation problems that had caused Madia to shut down production of the tail warning function have been solved, he said, and work on that aspect of the system resumed in April. In addition, the Version 4.01 software the company recently provided has proven to be the best Madia's evaluators have seen from AIL.
"Eaton had low credibility in my mind," Madia said in summation. "But now I see Eaton getting the message....I'm gaining confidence every day."
OTHER POINTS OF LIGHT
The EW Directorate, under the command of Col Robert Staloch, also has been expressing increased confidence in a pair of programs once stuck in neutral.
The first of these is the EF-111A System Improvement Program, designed to enhance the aircraft's EC capabilities. This program had been another Eaton sore spot with the Air Force; a contract with Eaton AIL for a tactical jamming system was terminated for default in June 1988. Attention immediately turned to alternatives, including the Receiver Processor Group (RPG) being developed for the Navy as part of its EA-6B Advanced Capabilities Program and the ALR-62I. A study by Grumman determined that the RPG carried too many affordability, modification and scheduling problems to be feasible as a replacement, according to George Aday, EF-111A program manager. The ALR-62I is still under consideration.
Maj Gen Teal headed another search for alternatives and reported his findings in September to the Systems Command, which in turn briefed the tactical commanders. As a result, TAC endorsed a restructuring of the EF-111A improvement program that emphasized enhanced R&M. In addition, the upgrade was to be an investment in tactical jamming system hardware, modular in nature and within the program's funding limits.
Since then, much of ASD's effort has been directed toward program definition. A consensus on the effort's shape was reached in April of this year; a PMD was delivered to the air staff, which returned it in June. Meanwhile, TAC submitted a revised statement of need that reflected the parameters of the PMD. The plan calls for the acquisition of an encoder/processor, Band 4 and 9 transmitters, narrow-beam antennas and an on-board loader that will enable the EWO to load and update the operational flight program from the cockpit. A technical demonstration of a DRFM-based exciter to determine the feasibility of its eventual use in the system also will be part of the contract. The suite will be called the ALQ-99E.
While the final details of the procurement process are still being completed, Aday said he anticipated a draft RFP for the ALQ-99E to appear no later than this November, with contract award by July 1990. Aday stated he was hoping FSD would be completed in 1993, with the first of two production lots arriving in 1994. If he receives long-lead authorization, he expects hardware to arrive in time to enable installation in the field to begin 12 months later, in early 1995.
The Warner Robins Air Logistics Center at Robins AFB, GA, will be heavily involved in this program, Aday revealed. The procurement of the Band 4 and 9 transmitters will take place there, he said, with the Band 4 acquisition following roughly the same schedule as the main FSD effort; he anticipates the Band 9 procurement starting in 1991. The Band 4 unit will be a solid-state transmitter designed as a form/fit replacement for TWT equipment; while Aday anticipates the solid-state device will improve reliability and availability, he does not expect a significant increase in performance over the TWT units. The upgraded Band 4 equipment will not be phased array, he said. The Band 9 transmitter will not be solid state.
Because the contract is expected to include installation, Aday admitted the logic of looking for an integration house when choosing a vendor. When it was suggested that the amount of work Grumman has already done on the EF-111 and EA-6B made it a logical choice for a sole-source award, Aday pointed out that the nature of the program and the tightness of its budget would not enable the SPO to justify such an award in the face of demands for competition. While both Aday and Staloch declined to speculate how much money the ALQ-99E update might be worth to a potential contractor, they did indicate that the procurement would be close to design-to-price parameters.
The other program on the point of full resuscitation is the follow-on of the Wild Weasel program, otherwise called Manned Lethal SEAD. The "Manned" portion of the title is important, according to the deputy director of the Wild Weasel Division, Lt Col Chuck Court, because the Pentagon has given serious thought to how much of the Weasel's mission could and should be accomplished by such unmanned vehicles as Tacit Rainbow. That study has yet to be completed; meanwhile, RWW is planning its own manned/unmanned inter-operability investigation, which should begin soon.
The upgrade itself should get off the ground this year -- provided the Air Force settles on an aircraft. Enough planes have been offered as the replacement for the F-4G to start an independent air force; these include the F-15 (in several flavors), the F-16, the Navy's F-18, the ATA and Europe's Tornado. ASD has been evaluating each of these pretenders with the help of the Joint EW Center in Texas, looking at such parameters as range, armament capability, maneuverability and low observability. The evaluations have resulted in a ranking of the planes; Court and Staloch refused to comment on the rankings, beyond revealing that the armament capability was extremely important to them. (HARMs, they said, are the weapons of choice; however, iron bombs, Maverick missiles and other weaponry are also being considered.) The evaluations have now turned to cost considerations, with Court examining a wide range of options, including the placement of an F-15E nose on an F-15A.
While Court and Staloch were initially hoping for an aircraft selection by the middle of June, they were resigned to the possibility of delay. They have even considered the consequences of what they termed a "no decision." In this scenario, TAC would throw open the choice to some form of competition, either a demonstration/validation contest or source selection. Such a competition could potentially play havoc with the current schedule, which calls for a draft RFP to be completed by this November and a Defense Acquisitions Board Milestone I review in April 1990. An RFP would be released shortly after the review (provided it is successful). Court and Staloch believe it possible to be under contract as early as the end of next year, most likely with an aircraft integrator.
While waiting for a platform decision, Court has been investigating the electronics the upgrade might include. Both emitter location system (ELS) and non-ELS configurations are being examined. The study includes such parameters as frequency coverage, sort times and sensitivity problems, among other characteristics. Data fusion is also being considered, depending on the final receiver mix. The plane will only carry self-protection; no nonlethal threat suppression is envisioned.
Unlike past upgrades, much of the equipment will be off the shelf. "It's a real pleasant change from previously," he said. "Previously the Weasels did have to push receiver technology. Now we may have to press certain aspects of computerization, developing cards or something, integration. Integration will be a great problem in this system under the best of circumstances."
Other programs besides these two potential bright spots also are occupying the attention of the EW Directorate. For example, while the responsibility for INEWS development has shifted to the ATF SPO, RWW is not completely out of the loop. The Seek Spartan program, a triservice effort, has been launched to provide a gateway through which INEWS technology can reach platforms other than the ATF. According to Lt Col Mike Sliper, the idea is not to dole out an entire "suite of INEWS" but to provide one or two functions developed in the INEWS program to enhance an existing system; obviously, which functions are provided will depend on the needs of the individual systems. Most likely, he said, these enhancements would come in the form of line replaceable units (LRUs) designed to be integrated into existing equipment.
Seek Spartan is just getting underway; technical definition/interface studies will begin this year and are expected to last approximately 10 months. FSD depends on the ATF down selection decision, currently anticipated to occur in FY1991. Sliper anticipates some form of competition, particularly if an need is identified that cannot be fulfilled through technology developed for the ATF program.
In contrast to the relative immaturity of Seek Spartan, the ALE-47 effort, in which the Air Force and Navy are teaming to develop a common expendable dispenser system, is well into FSD, under a contract granted to Tracor last year. Maj Richard Forand, a program manager in the Electronic Combat Equipment Div., reported that the program is on schedule, with the next milestone a critical design review in August or September. If the program continues to run smoothly, the first deliverables should be ready by early 1992, with operational deployment in Air Force F-16C/Ds and Navy F-18s following in October of that year. Tracor is under contract through the LRIP phase, which should produce 172 units. Forand anticipates competition will be reintroduced into the program after that time.
The contract initially was fixed price. However, Forand revealed that some additional requirements from the Navy -- due to such factors as differing interfaces and control panels -- have added to the complexity of Tracor's effort and will necessitate extra "fund to task" work. "It's a reasonable integration job," said Forand of the new requirements, "nothing the contractor can't handle."
A La Carte
RWW's EC charter extends well beyond the boundaries set by these four programs. The staff is involved in the REDCAP and AFEWES simulator programs; they also provide support to the Navy on the ALQ-165 Airborne Self Protection Jammer (ASPJ) and aid in equipping Special Operations Forces (SOF) and MAC aircraft with self-protection suites. Examples of SOF and MAC work include interactive defensive avionics and work with the C-17 SPO on the ECP program. RWW also will be looking over the shoulders of the Warner Robins staff during their SOF avionics integration work to ensure that any shortfalls or deficiencies can be addressed properly. An airlift defensive system also is in the works.
MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE LAB
The work of RWW is supported by what is now called the Wright Research and Development Center (WRDC). The reorganized AFWAL now boasts a new lab, focused on electronic technology, and four new directorates, covering signature technology (SN), technology exploitation (TX), manufacturing technology (MT) and cockpits (KT). Col Richard R. Paul is the new commander.
The EW Division remained relatively unchanged, with Jack Tehan still at the helm. Of the numerous development efforts under his charge, two appear relatively mature.
The first of these is the Silent Attack Warning System (SAWS), a program to develop a cryogenically cooled scanning thermal detection system. Three companies -- Texas Instruments, GE and Honeywell -- are developing rival systems in parallel, with the TI effort apparently in the furthest stage of development. While all three companies are reportedly using roughly the same algorithms in their respective missile warning sets, Tehan and his deputy for technology, Bill Cannon, said they are applying those algorithms in different ways. This results in differing selections of infrared wavelengths and scanning patterns for the infrared detectors.
TI is expected to deliver its prototype shortly, with the GE and Honeywell candidates arriving at the end of the year or in the first quarter of 1990. Ground tests may begin on the TI system before the offerings of the other competitors are delivered. Eventually, the three systems will be tested simultaneously via flight tests aboard C-141 test aircraft.
The systems will use scanning array technology. "We, along with anybody else, realize that the ideal solution would be staring array," Tehan stated. "However, in terms of the availability of the technology, we felt within the time frame we wanted to get SAWS up to serve as the front end of the HAVE GLANCE system [an IRCM system recently awarded to Loral], the only way we were going to do that was with the scanning sensors." Signal and data processing problems also have yet to be overcome within staring array technology, he added.
Cannon agreed. "There's more than just a simple warning system," he said. "If that's all we were considering, then a staring approach would have been a viable approach. But looking at some of the overall situation awareness issues we were trying to solve as well as some of the technical performance characteristics, it tended to drive us toward a scanning system."
This does not mean that the EW lab does not foresee the use of staring array technology in the reasonably near future. The EW Division works closely with the Naval Research Laboratory, which is collecting data on this technology as well.
The second program covers one of the hottest topics in avionics, system integration. The Tactical Situation Awareness and Response Strategy (TSARS) program is attempting to combine sensor fusion, artificial intelligence and other technologies into an advanced situation awareness system that will not only respond to threat environments, but also determine the effectiveness of the response. According to Tehan and Cannon, the system will monitor what is occuring in the environment, how many threats there are, what the countermeasure capabilities of the aircraft are, what the weapons load is, potential maneuverability, etc.
Both Hughes and Loral are working on this project, on cost-sharing contracts issued early this year under which the Air Force has matched the vendors' investments (which are approximately $1 million apiece). The product of this initial effort will be algorithms and software, plus the ability to demonstrate their worth; these are due to be delivered in late FY1990. According to Paul Westcott, program manager for the effort, a follow-on program based on the most successful ideas from both parties will be competed in FY1991 under the rubric Advanced Defensive Avionics Response Strategies. While he declined to estimate how much money would be involved in this competition, he did say the effort would equal approximately 40 man years.
Integrating Facilities to Integrate Avionics
As part of its research into integrated avionics, the EW Division is involved in an effort to pool its resources with other labs in the WRDC. Tehan is currently working to link his EW simulation facilities with communications systems and cockpit laboratories, with the aim of running real-time experiments. The experiments will attempt to determine what happens to communications systems in the presence of a jamming environment. Tehan hopes to broaden this experiment to include the radar simulation lab, to simulate entire avionics suites. The idea would be, for example, to see how information from the radar system might be useful to ECM systems or how receivers might be shared.
Tehan sees the 6.2 labs as the best place to begin integration efforts, with this caveat: "You're absolutely not going to do all the jobs equally well." Many people lose sight of the fact that compromises are going to have to be made, trade-offs between system performance of one part of the suite and another, he said.
Unfortunately, Tehan does not see completely integrated avionics appearing in the near future. "From an engineering stand-point, that's a bitch of a job," he explained. "When you think in terms of the laws of physics and designing systems that are broadband, high-powered like we need in the EW business, and some guy in the radar business uses a narrowband specifically designed antenna and power sources -- his job's a different job. The same with comm people.... I will be long retired before they ever get that problem solved."
The staff of the EW Division are "firm believers" in advanced expendable technology, according to Tehan. The division currently has several programs on-going in this field, including one with the Navy's NADC to build a solid-state mm-wave package. Laboratory models of such a package from Defense Systems Concepts and Raytheon's Goleta, CA, operation have already been built and tested under a pair of contracts, one each from the Air Force and Navy based on a joint statement of work. Tehan hopes to take advantage of MMIC technology in this program -- provided he can drum up enough interest from TAC to fund a 6.3 program.
Another effort in which the Navy is involved (in fact, all three services are pitching in) is called Alternate IR Decoys. Tracor, Loral, Sanders and SRI have delivered several different dropped decoys that vary in terms of aerodynamics, methods to increase rise time and other parameters. Month-long wind tunnel tests at the Navy's Crane facilities are due to start shortly. It is Tehan's intention to recompete this program sometime in the future after the tests are completed and results evaluated.
Tehan said ASD works very closely with the Navy on expendable technology, often taking advantage of the Crane test facility and monitoring the results of the Navy's development efforts, including material research. He expressed particular interest in the Navy's STRAP program.
The EW Division has its fingers in several other pies. The application of superconductors to EW is one; Tehan sees a potential home for it in receiver processing. Receivers also are being viewed as a conduit through which optical processing will reach application; the Rome Air Development Center has the lead in this effort, Tehan said. Artificial intelligence development is not being done at the EW Division to any great degree, Tehan admitted; most of his staff's effort in this field is being directed at applying what others have developed, particularly in the areas of sorting and pattern recognition.
"There's not very many new advanced development programs," Tehan concluded. "It turns out that the 6.2 guys have a number of new starts this year; the advanced development is not [as active]. That's not necessarily a bad thing; what it really means is we're already under contract with most of our major programs."
PHOTO : An RFP for the EF-111A System Improvement Program should be out no later than this
PHOTO : November.
PHOTO : The venerable F-4G will soon be replaced as part of the Wild Weasel upgrade, called
PHOTO : Mannel Lethal SEAD.
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|Title Annotation:||electronic warfare; Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio|
|Author:||Hardy, Stephen M.|
|Publication:||Journal of Electronic Defense|
|Date:||Aug 1, 1989|
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