Rising Stakes Focus Asia-Pacific Powers on EW.
Of primary concern to many regional powers (and the US as well) is the proliferation from India right through to China of third- and fourth-generation fighters and attack aircraft, such as the F/A-18C/D, the F-16C/D, the MiG-29 and variants of the Su-27. Regional operators are requesting (and starting to receive) weapons such as the AIM-120B AMRAAM, AGM-84 Harpoon and long-range, stand-off strike weapons for their western fighters, as well as the formidable R-27 (AA-10 Alamo), R-73 (AA-11 Archer) and R-77 (AA-12 Adder) within- and beyond-visual-range (WVR and BVR) air-to-air missiles for their Russian-sourced aircraft. Regional air-combat capabilities are growing rapidly, and the same applies at sea, with Harpoon, MM-38 and AM-39 Exocet anti-ship missiles and their Russian and Chinese counterparts very widely proliferated.
On top of that, regional powers are expected to start ordering new Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) aircraft on the back of Australia's 1999 selection of Boeing as the supplier of its new AEW&C system under the RAAF's Project Wedgetail. This program will see Australia launch an all-new family of "middleweight" AEW&C aircraft based on the Boeing 737 airliner, which falls in size between Japan's Boeing 767 AWACS and the Northrop Grumman E-2C Hawkeye, currently operated by Singapore and the first production aircraft to mount the innovative Northrop Grumman Electronic Sensors and Systems Sector (ESSS) Multirole Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) radar.
Now that Australia has taken the plunge, other customers tipped to follow this lead include the Republic of (South) Korea and Singapore. At sea, all of the regional powers are continuing to invest in both surveillance assets and combat capabilities. Some, including Malaysia's and Singapore's quite different New Generation Patrol Vessel (NGPV) programs, incorporate low-observable design features. Indeed, in Singapore's case, the apparent goal is to field a genuinely stealthy surface combatant.
EW DOWN UNDER
The implications of all of this for the region's EW community and potential equipment vendors are simple: there is a heightened awareness of the need for superior surveillance, situational-awareness and self-defense capabilities. Equally important, customers are becoming more assertive in dealing with vendors as their in-country technology bases and technical self-confidence grow.
Australia is a useful model for how the region as a whole will develop over the next ten to twenty years. As recently as ten years ago, most of Australia's EW capabilities were platform-based (i.e., came as embedded capabilities in the aircraft, ships and submarines, bought primarily from overseas suppliers).
Australia's electronic order of battle was largely a by-product of its frontline combat equipment inventory; the country had little access to software source code and lacked both the industry skills and technology base to be able to update threat libraries or operating systems, still less to field and configure effectively an array of electronic surveillance and self-defense systems.
That has changed. Australia today seeks self-reliance (but not self-sufficiency) in EW and is wrestling tenaciously with the resulting technical and philosophical dilemmas. "Self-reliance" -- defined as the ability to maintain, modify and enhance EW equipment in-country through life of type, independently of the original supplier -- is a powerful justification for a spot of industry pump-priming.
The AN/ALR-62 radar warning receiver (RWR) on the RAAF's F-111C strike aircraft, for example, is largely out of date and doesn't cope well with emerging regional threats and capabilities, but the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) lacks the source-code access necessary to update and modify it, and the survivability of the F-111 has been eroded as a result. The solution is the ALR-2002, an RWR being developed by British Aerospace Australia (Sydney, Australia) -- now part of BAE Systems -- as a form, fit and function replacement for the ALR-62, in partnership with the Adelaide-based Electronic Warfare Division of the Australian government's Defense Science and Technology Organization (DSTO). The Australian Department of Defense's investment in the ALR-2002 is an acknowledgment that it must have full source-code access for EW and other critical technologies in order to maintain strategic and tactical flexibility throughout the service life of the equipment in question. It is also a vehicle for stimulating indust ry growth. The Department is funding the Full-Scale Engineering Development (FSED) program, which will see the first flight test of the ALR-2002 aboard an F-111 in May or June of this year. BAE Systems also holds FSED contracts to develop separate variants of the ALR-2002 for the F/A-18 and the S-70A helicopter.
Australia is too small a market to justify significant investment in EW products for a single platform, hence the requirement to re-use the same basic product on as wide a range of aircraft as possible. Only this provides the production volume required to justify such an important investment.
Australia's major EW programs reflect this outlook. The largest of these, Project Echidna, aims to acquire an open-system architecture which will support a generic EW Self-Protection (EWSP) suite for a range of Australian fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft: 34 F-111s, 12 C-l30Js, 36 S-70s, six CH-47Ds and seven Mk50 helicopters.
Project Echidna is dominated by US players: Lockheed Martin Federal Systems, teamed with Boeing Australia Ltd. and BAE Systems; Northrop Grumman ESSS, teamed with two local companies -- GEC-Marconi Systems and Hunter Aerospace, both now part of BAE Systems -- and Tenix Defense Systems' Systems Division, teamed with ITT Avionics and TRW, Inc. Raytheon's bid will be primed by the company's Aircraft Integration Services Segment, which is teamed with Vision Abell. Raytheon's team had also included Israeli firms Elta Electronics and Elisra, but US State Department restrictions on technology and intellectual-property exports and industry partnerships resulted in Raytheon severing its ties with its Israeli partners in November 1999. Each of these teams is scheduled, between January and February this year, to sign an Aus$7.8-million Initial Design Activity (IDA) contract to produce initial designs for the generic Echidna EWSP suite.
The Echidna suite will include an RWR along with a missile-warning system (MWS), laser warning system (LWS), countermeasures-dispensing system (CMDS), radar jammer, directional infrared countermeasures (DIRCM) and towed radar-frequency (RF) decoy. Different combinations of these, linked by a common architecture and suite controller, will be applied to the fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters to match anticipated future threats.
Once work on the IDA contracts is completed, the contenders will submit tenders to carry out the production phase of the project. The winning bidder's first priority will then be to develop an EWSP suite for the Army's Blackhawk helicopters, with initial operational capability slated for mid-2003, followed by the F-111 and C-130J in 2004/05 and the CH-47D and Sea King in subsequent phases over the next six years.
The critical mass of this program may grow significantly. The Echidna suite may also be extended to the RAAF's 18 AP-3C Orion maritimepatrol aircraft, which are currently undergoing an avionics and mission-systems upgrade by Raytheon, as well as to the RAAF's 33 Hawk Mk127 jet trainers, which are already under construction in Britain and Australia. It is also likely that the suite will be incorporated also in the RAAF's planned fleet of 10-14 light tactical airlifters, scheduled to enter service by late 2003, following selection of a prime contractor early this year, as well as the Army's fleet of 24 armed reconnaissance helicopters, for which tenders will likely be called during the first or second quarter of this year.
Although the ALR-2002 is not mandated for the F-111 and Blackhawk, it is the "nominated" RWR for these aircraft, which means that the ADF, having invested in its development, is not necessarily obliged to buy it if it doesn't perform or is not found to be cost effective. If the ALR-2002 is successful, later variants will be developed for the C-130, other transport aircraft and helicopters. (The Hornet is a special case, discussed below.) In the meantime, the RAAF is fielding an interim EWSP capability for its F-111 and C-130H fleets pending the introduction of the Echidna suite.
The RAAF's goal for the F-111 is to acquire a pod with a software-reprogrammable, digital RF memory that is able to handle multiple threats from pulse-Doppler, continuous-wave and track-while-scan radar sensors, simultaneously. After a competitive tendering process which began in early 1999, the service selected IAI/Elta's EL/L 8222 jamming pod for the F-111 over the DaimlerChrysler Aerospace (DASA) Tornado Self-Protection Jammer (TSPJ). It has yet to disclose how many pods will be acquired or the contract value, but industry sources have speculated that if the podded jammer is successful, it may obviate the need for a more expensive, but more highly integrated, RF-countermeasures suite based on the Echidna architecture. Under an already-approved series of block upgrades, the RAAF's F-111s are currently scheduled to receive the TERMA Elektronik AN/ALQ-213(V) EW-suite controller, which will be integrated with an updated AN/ALE-47 CMDS. These, with the ALR-2002 and, perhaps, a towed RF decoy, may provide enoug h of an EWSP capability to make a full Echidna upgrade unnecessary.
During the early 1990s the RAAF equipped four of its C-130H airlifters with the AN/APR-39 RWR, AN/AAR-47 passive IR warning system and AN/ALE-40 CMDS to equip at least a small force of aircraft for modern combat and peace-enforcement operations. This was a stop-gap pending implementation of Project Echidna, but the latter's slow progress has seen the RAAF implement another interim upgrade to these four aircraft. Tenix Defense Systems has completed installation of the Elisra SPS-1000(V)5 RWR and the ALE-47 in place of the ALE-40 on the first of them. The Department of Defense was expected to decide by late-December 1999 whether to retrofit the entire fleet with the SPS-1000, the ALE-47 and the AN/AAR-54 in place of the AAR-47. If the RAAF gets the green light for this project, the ALR-213(V) could also be included to manage the EW suite.
In the meantime, the Department of Defense has ordered each of the four Echidna contenders to include a non-US EW-suite controller as an option in their tenders. TERMA's ALQ-213 is an obvious choice, being already ordered for the RAAF, but it is acknowledged that this currently lacks the full functionality sought for the Echidna EWSP suite. Thus, BAE Systems was awarded, in November 1999, an extension to its ALR-2002 FSED contract to conduct a project-definition study on the development of a fully configured EW-suite controller as part of ALR-2002. The company has already begun talks with prospective partners, including TERMA, undisclosed Israeli EW companies, Avitronics (Pty) Ltd. and the former Marconi Electronics, now part of BAE Systems.
As mentioned earlier, the Aus$1-billion avionics upgrade for the RAAF's F/A-18A/B Hornets is being treated as a special case where the ALR-2002 is concerned. This upgrade will see the aircraft upgraded to late-model F/A-18C/D configuration, complete with AN/APG-73 radar. The EWSP element of the upgrade could provide an opportunity for the ALR-2002, but unless other Hornet operators show genuine interest in this RWR, the ADF as a whole is under too much budget pressure at present to contemplate a lengthy and expensive integration program for the ALR-2002 into the F/A-18's Omni-15 Operational Flight Program. The RAAF is currently working out its acquisition strategy for the EW element. The smart money says the RAAF will simply follow the current US Navy/Marine Corps configuration and replace its AN/ALR-67(V)2 RWRs with the -67(V)3/4 and its AN/ALE-39 CMDS with the ALE-47 or -50.
The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) has assembled most of the building blocks for its own shipborne EW capabilities. Twelve months ago, it had three major programs in the offing, each with a significant EW component: the upgrade of its six FFG-7 frigates; the Warfighting Improvement Program (WIP) of its eight Anzacclass frigates (of which only two have yet been delivered); and a planned upgrade of its six Collins-class submarines, of which only three have been delivered so far.
In June of this year, ADI Ltd. signed the Aus$897-million prime contract for the FFG upgrade and subsequently named Rafael, teamed with Elisra and Vision Abell, as the supplier of the frigates' upgraded electronic-support-measures (ESM) system, replacing their existing AN/SLQ-32(V)2 systems. The RAN had never upgraded to the US Navy's SLQ-32(V)5 configuration, which includes an electronic-attack (EA) capability. The RAN still lacks an EA capability for its FFG-7s and will not acquire one with Rafael's C-Pearl ESM system. Nevertheless, it demanded very-high passive-mode performance from its ESM system. It also includes a growth path to a full EA capability, if required.
In November, the RAN cancelled its Anzac WIP, replacing the original and very ambitious anti-air-warfare (AAW) upgrade, including a new ESM system worth around Aus$1.5 billion, with a far simpler and cheaper anti-ship-missile-defense (ASMD) program worth some Aus$500 million instead. The RAN and the three shortlisted contenders for the WIP -- BAE Systems, Tenix Defense Systems and ADI -- have formed an Integrated Project Team (IPT) with CelsiusTech Australia, which supplied the Anzac frigates' existing 9LVMk3 combat-data system. This IPT will develop a range of ASMD options for consideration by the Department of Defense in late March of this year.
The Anzac frigates and FFG-7s are already scheduled to receive both the Nulka decoy and the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) in retrofit projects quite separate from the WIP and the FFG upgrade; these will form the guts of the ASMD capability. The FFG-7s and Anzac frigates will each receive four Nulka quadruple-tube launchers, two on each side, mounted fore and aft. The RAN's Nulka installation, including its fire-control system, will be "stand-alone" and not integrated with the ships' various ESM and combat-data systems.
The biggest naval EW program in the offing for Australia may be the acquisition of a small force of AAW destroyers to replace the RAN's three Charles F. Adams-class DDGs, the first of which retired in late 1999. The rest are scheduled to retire by late 2002. The Anzac WIP was supposed to provide this AAW capability but was considered too expensive and risky for such a small warship. The RAN and its IPT will present AAW-acquisition options to the Defense Department in late March this year, including acquiring the US Navy's four Kidd-class destroyers or building in Australia two or three of the current European AAW designs: the Germany's F124, the Dutch LCP or the Spanish F-100. All are equipped with modern phased array active sensors, the SM-2 Standard air-defense missile and combat-data systems able to fuse radar, electro-optic and ESM data to provide rapid reaction to modern threats and high levels of situational awareness. They also have growth paths which embrace a Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC), something the RAN also seeks in the longer term.
Nulka is still undergoing the formal acceptance-into-naval-service process in Australia, but it passed a stringent US Navy Operational Evaluation (OPEVAL) in late 1998. The system was installed aboard an RAN FFG-7 policing the Iraqi trade embargo in the Gulf in early 1999. Nulka is expected to be fielded aboard US Navy Arleigh Burke-class Aegis destroyers beginning late this year. The Australian Department of Defense hoped to obtain funding approval before the end of 1999 for a three- to four-year, preplanned product-improvement ([P.sup.3]I) program. Department sources told JED they anticipate maintaining the current bilateral US-Australian government relationship and the same BAE Systems-Sippican industrial partnership.
Along with Nulka and ESSM, the Anzacs will require an enhanced 3-D surveillance radar, extra channels of fire for the ESSM (and, thus, an extra target-illumination radar), an enhanced combat-data system to handle higher data throughputs and an all-new ESM system to replace their existing Racal-Thorn Sceptre-A system. The new ESM system will most likely be the C-Pearl, for the same reasons this was selected for the FFG-7s, as well as to provide commonality in software development and maintenance.
The RAN has also sought the benefits of scale in the EWSP upgrade of its 16 S-70B helicopters and the acquisition of its 11 SH-2G(A) helicopters, which were ordered two years ago and will be delivered beginning late this year. The Navy managed to schedule these separate programs to ensure fleet-wide commonality of key sensors: the Raytheon AN/AAQ-32 forward-looking IR (FLIR) will be common to both aircraft, as will the Elisra SPS-1000 ESM and the ALE-47 CMDS. Australia's SH-2Gs are also equipped with the Telephonics AN/APS-143 inverse-synthetic-aperture radar (ISAR) which, with the Litton Integrated Tactical Avionics Suite, will help provide targeting information for the helicopter's Penguin Mk5 anti-ship missile. The S-70Bs remain unarmed at present and retain their original radar. Tenix Defense Systems has the prime contract to perform the EWSP upgrade on the S-70Bs, along with the RAAF's C-130Hs.
In New Zealand, all bets are temporarily off. Last year's late-November general election brought a Labor Party-dominated coalition to power on a platform that includes reviewing the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) plan to acquire 28 F-16A/Bs under a 'lease-to-purchase' arrangement. At the time of writing, new Prime Minister Helen Clark had still not named her cabinet, and the New Zealand government was operating in caretaker mode, so Ministry of Defense spokesmen were unable to comment on the status of these programs. The new government's defense plans are all contingent on a review of the costs involved, especially the likely cancellation fee for the F-16 program, for which the NZ$362-million contract was signed in September. Sources in Wellington believe no firm plans will be announced until well into the first quarter of this year.
New Zealand had no plans to replace the existing EW systems aboard the F-16s, nor the Sceptre-A ESM aboard its two Australian-built Anzac frigates. Despite the impending retirement of its last UK-built Leander-class frigate, the Canterbury, Clark has refused to countenance acquiring more Anzac frigates, which are identical to the current RAN versions, and plans to study instead the prospect of acquiring a more versatile, multi-purpose patrol craft. At this stage, there is not even a commitment to maintain a three-frigate surface fleet, which would be well below what the RNZN considers a critical mass for a sustainable combat capability.
The outlook for defense in New Zealand is uncertain at present. The new government is believed likely to focus on regional-patrol, fisheries- and resources-protection and peacekeeping operations, rather than any kind of blue-water combat capability. This, in turn, implies a focus on surveillance and situational-awareness capabilities. Significantly, the two programs not targeted for review by the new government are Project Sirius, the avionics upgrade to the RNZAF's six P-3K maritime patrol aircraft, and the NZ Army's planned acquisition of an all-new command, control and communications system.
Raytheon was named in November of last year as the preferred tenderer for Project Sirius and is scheduled to submit its final offer in January of this year. Raytheon and NZ Ministry of Defense sources have declined to comment on the program at such a sensitive stage, but Raytheon executives acknowledge that there are potential synergies with the RAAF's AP-3C upgrade, for which Raytheon is also prime contractor. Whether or not this will see the AP-3C's ALR-2001 ESM system, as well as a future provision for Australia's Echidna EWSP suite, installed aboard New Zealand's Orions remains to be seen.
With a sustained commitment to peacekeeping operations, in 1996 the RNZAF initiated Project Delphi, the installation of a suite of cockpit armor and EWSP systems for its five C-130H airlifters. Raytheon won the prime contract, and the first aircraft was equipped with the Elta EL/M-2160 missile-approach warner, APR-39A(V)2 RWR and ALE-47(I) CMDS in 1996. The four remaining aircraft have been similarly modified by Air New Zealand Engineering Services, and the program was completed in December 1999.
Regardless of the future of the surface fleet, the RNZN is committed to the purchase of five SH-2G(NZ) Super Seasprite helicopters, which it ordered two years ago. These aircraft will be delivered late this year and equipped with the same AN/APS-143 radar as Australia's SH-2G(A)s, but without the ISAR capability, and will carry the same ALE-47 CMDS. New Zealand's aircraft, however, are equipped with the Litton LR-100 ESM system and the FLIR Systems AAQ-22 Safire FLIR sensor.
It would be wrong to imagine that Australia is the sole benchmark for EW capability within southeast Asia. Singapore, for example, has invested in a significant electronic-intelligence and surveillance capability, embodied in its three Arava electronic-surveillance aircraft and its four F-50 Enforcer maritime-patrol aircraft. Similarly, Thailand's two Knox-class destroyers use the same SLQ-32 ESM system as the RAN's FFG-7s, except that Thailand has implemented the Sidekick update to incorporate a deception jammer and an EA capability, making it one of the most capable shipborne ESM systems within the region.
The majority of regional defense forces face the same challenges as Australia and New Zealand -- balancing budgets and growing in-country expertise. Singapore, more than any of its neighbors, has demonstrated both the ambition and the capability to be an effective EW exponent and has the software and IT industry base necessary to underpin longterm capability growth. The country has invested heavily in its surveillance capabilities and in carefully targeted combat capabilities. It operates a fleet of 38 F-16s, but also conducts much of its tactical-flying training overseas. The Republic of Singapore Air Force was also the first regional power to acquire an AEW&C capability with the E-2C and has been identified as a potential customer for both the Wedgetail AEW&C system and the Eurofighter Typhoon down the line.
Singapore is also building up its submarine arm with the acquisition of four ex-Swedish Sjoormen-class submarines and is currently building an all-new class of New-Generation Patrol Vessels -- essentially corvettes -- with extensive stealth design features. The traditionally secretive Singaporeans are working on their design with HDW-Kockums and leveraging off a growing array of EW sensors and their in-country technology base to provide depth and sustainability to this new capability.
Malaysia still lacks Singapore's technology base, and much of its EW capability is embedded in its high-quality combat platforms: Meko 100 corvettes (six on order, a total of 27 required and final combat-system details still to be finalized) its two UK-built Lekiu-class frigates, which were delivered late last year, with an EW suite comprising the Marconi Mentor ECM and Racal-Thorn Scimitar ECM systems; two Italian-built FS-1500 corvettes, equipped with the Racal-Thorn Rapids ESM and Scimitar ECM systems; and four Hang Nadim (ex-Iraqi) corvettes, equipped with Selenia INS-3 ESM and TQN-3 ECM systems. These will be supplemented by six Super Lynx naval helicopters, and all possess -- at the very least -- the potential for a passive-surveillance and targeting capability for their inventory of, Exocet and Sea Eagle anti-ship missiles.
In the air, the Royal Malaysian Air Force is a force to be reckoned with, fielding eight F/A-18C/D, 12 MiG-29s and 18 Hawk 200s, equipped with the BAE Systems Sky Guardian 200 EW suite, and its electronic order of battle reflects the standard export configuration of these aircraft. More challenging, however, is the likely purchase of further MiG-29s, or possibly a squadron of up to eight Su-27s, complete with the latest variant of the R-77, alongside the R-27 and R-73 missiles currently in the inventory, thereby raising the stakes as far as regional capability is concerned.
Indonesia was ravaged by the regional economic crisis and has yet to recover. Its armed forces have returned to their earlier preoccupation with internal security, and no plans for significant capability upgrades - with or without an EW component -- are known.
Thailand is similarly afflicted, but is recovering faster. At present much of Thailand's shrunken defense budget is devoted to keeping core capabilities alive, so planned upgrades to the EW suite on the RTN's flagship, the carrier Chakri Nareubet, are on hold. She currently carries only chaff-rocket launchers with no ECM or ESM. Thailand was forced to cancel its order for 12 F/A-l8C/Ds last year under severe budget pressure, but is still lobbying for release of the AIM-120B AMRAAM to arm its F-16C/D Block-50 fighters. Thailand's order of battle is a mixture of new and very old platforms, especially in the Navy, whose two Knox-class destroyers have considerable combat potential. Once the money is available to start upgrading or replacing older patrol boats, corvettes, A-7s, AV-8Ss and its 4air force's F-5A/Bs and E/Fs, observers predict Thailand's EW capabilities will grow exponentially and, with them, the country's combat capability.
In conclusion, the Asia-Pacific region is an EW marketplace with long-term potential. But EW is so much part of the core of a country's defense capabilities that European and US vendors are likely to find themselves being asked for sophisticated equipment, with full source-code access in many cases. This will be a challenge for vendors, especially. US companies and their industry partners. For Australia, Nulka is a case in point: exports of this decoy the EW payload of which is manufactured by Sippican, Inc. -- are subject to very close scrutiny and control by the US State Department.
The message for the US is clear: while it holds a global technology edge in EW, it may be able to monopolize large segments of the EW marketplace, but once genuine alternatives become available to US-sourced equipment, customers may think twice before subjecting themselves to the US Government's power of veto over who owns what capability.
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|Comment:||Rising Stakes Focus Asia-Pacific Powers on EW.|
|Publication:||Journal of Electronic Defense|
|Article Type:||Brief Article|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2000|
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