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The long voyage of Navy EW: as old systems get older, are new assets on the horizon?

On the face of it, the last 12 months haven't been good for shipboard EW. The Shipboard Lightweight EW System (SLEWS), which several European observers hoped would finally provide them with a firm foothold in the US market, was canceled. The next-generation SLQ-54, envisioned as a replacement for the aging SLQ-32, continued to flounder as the designation without a program. The SLQ-32 itself has recently found itself the target of a General Accounting Office probe that called into question several aspects of the Navy's basic shipboard EW system.

Viewed under the magnifying glass of decreasing budgets, the problems faced by the shipboard EW community might seem depressingly large. Yet in talking to several Navy and industry sources, JED has uncovered evidence that shipboard EW is on the threshold of important advances.


SLQ-54, AIEWS - whatever you want to call it, the development of the next generation of shipboard EW systems has suffered several false starts. However, Office of the Assistant Chief of Naval Operations for Surface Warfare (OP 03) has finally completed a draft mission needs statement which will spark a formalized review of system options.

The review will come in the form of a cost and operational effectiveness assessment (COEA). According to Navy sources, a panel of Navy experts outside of OP 03 will review the draft needs statement and the alternatives available to meet it. While OP 03 can suggest alternatives for study, the investigative group is charged with examining all the available alternatives, particularly their potential costs and relative effectiveness. The COEA findings will be reviewed by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy and the Office of the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Navy Program Planning (OP 08), then used to develop an Operational Requirements Document. A full-fledged - and fully funded - program could then begin.

The COEA is expected to last a year. While the scope and shape of the program will undoubtedly be refined to some degree as a result of the COEA studies, present documentation suggests the next-generation effort will focus on equipment for new ship starts, with perhaps limited retrofit to some present systems.

With the COEA barely begun, Navy sources were reluctant to speculate on the configuration of the future suite. However, they pointed out that the COEA panel will look at a wide range of alternatives, from merely fielding upgraded SLQ-32s to completely overhauling that system or creating an entirely new suite that could be indistinguishable from the ship's weapons system - much as INEWs will blend with the F-22's avionics. Some suggest that should a new system be created with a modular, open architecture format, certain modules could be retrofitted to present SLQ-32s. EO/IR subsystems that would interact with the SLQ-32 and other systems via a local area network would be a likely candidate, the sources suggest.

One interesting influence on the process, say Navy sources, is the likely inclusion of the British within the program. The COEA will probably include a look at joint US-UK requirements and potential cost sharing. Of course, the review may conclude that the requirements of the two countries are not well matched. However, the requirements need not mirror each other exactly for the two nations to work together, sources say. If one again envisions a modular system, certain subsystems may address common needs even if the overall system does not.

The inclusion of British strategists in the planning process will likely lead to UK participation in the design and manufacturing of the new capabilities, several sources believe. This should partially salve the wounds inflicted by the termination of SLEWS - at least for the British firms which find a place in the new program. Racal, Thorn EMI and Marconi Defence Systems of the UK have developed and produced sophisticated ship defense systems, and would be prime candidates for participation in any US/UK joint venture.

On the US side, Raytheon Co. Electromagnetic Systems Division (Goleta, CA) and Hughes Aircraft Radar Systems Group (Los Angeles, CA) would be obvious contenders, based on their work with the SLQ-32 and other US Navy shipboard EW systems for large surface ships. Another potential contractor is ARGOSystems, Inc. (Sunnyvale, CA), which has also provided subsystems for the SLQ-32 and produced the APECS II EW system. The company is already touting the suite for the AIEWS role (as well as for some SLQ-32(V)5 applications), based on the system's international success with NATO navies. ARGOSystems recently introduced the lightweight AR900 ESM for small ships and submarines (it also has airborne and ground applications).

Of course, focusing on new ships presupposes there will be new ships in the relatively near future. Navy sources indicate the new EW capabilities will be matched with AEGIS-type ships in the first few years of the 21st century. Platform numbers win have a significant effect on unit costs of any new EW suite and will be a major factor in the COEA deliberations.



While looking toward the future the Navy must also take care of the present - and in shipboard EW, that means the SLQ-32. This system has undergone a constant evolution since its introduction to the fleet in the late 1970s. Raytheon won the initial competition for the suite, which replaced the Hughes-developed SLQ-17. Hughes subsequently became a second source of the system in 1988 after bidding $1 for the privilege. The relationship between the two companies has been less than cordial, and the firms have taken their disagreements to court.

Despite the wrangling, five versions of the system have been developed. The (V)1 and (V)2 are ESM-only variants integrated with the MK 36 decoy launching system. The (V)1 is carried by small amphibious, service and some frigate-class ships. The (V)2 finds application on frigates and several destroyer classes.

The (V)3, (V)4 and (V)5 are integrated with active jammers. The (V)4 differs from the (V)3 in that it dome not include a Band 1 antenna. A second ESM receiver - the narrowband, superhetero-dyne AN/WLR-1H - is used instead. ARGOSystems is responsible for the subsystem which extended (V)3 coverage into Band 1.

The (V)4 is designed for use on carriers. The (V)6, nicknamed Sidekick by Raytheon, integrates the (V)2 with a lightweight transmitter, it was the result of a rapid development begun shortly after the Stark incident. Several such systems were fielded on FFG 7 frigates.

Subsequently, the Navy launched a formal program to equip all Perry-class platforms with Sidekick. This effort is approaching a Milestone III full-rate production review later this year. Improvements in suitability shortcomings uncovered in earlier testing - revolving around documentation and training issues that the service will address - must be completed before the review can take place, however. Navy sources indicated this should not be a major problem.

Meanwhile, SLQ-32 evolution continues with the recent award of a $11.3 million contract to Raytheon over Hughes for what are called Phase E improvements. The upgrade will focus on improving proving the processing capabilities of the (V)1, (V)2 and (V)3 versions of the system. Such improvements should enhance the system's azimuth and elevation angle accuracy, making it more useful in the passive cuing of a ship's fire control sensors and weapons in integrated hard-kill/soft-kill applications.

The next upgrade will likely address displays and the user/machine interface, Navy sources suggest. While the service does not have a formal program in place, either software or hardware upgrades are considered possible. This would come as good news to Raytheon, which has already developed an improved display console for the system (see "Surface EW 2000 - Challenges of the Future" by Dr. R.R. Anderson and K. Pierskalla, JED, January 1992, p. 57).

In all, 315 engineering change proposals (ECPs) have brought the system from the 1970s to the 1990s. Most of these involve what Navy and Raytheon sources consider minor modifications; some of the more significant enhancements are listed in Table 1.


The dizzying number of changes is what attracted the attention of Congress and the General Accounting Office (GAO). With five different versions of the system in the fleet and over 300 ECPs floating through the program, some users reportedly found it difficult to determine which configuration they were operating. Meanwhile, even though each change was tested before fielding, regardless of how small its complexity, the cumulative effect on the average SLQ-32 was significant - so significant that they constituted a completely new system, critics maintained.

By 1988, the Navy realized that a reemphasis on configuration control was in order. A baseline system was established and run through a series of tests to determine its performance. Unfortunately, the results of those tests did not meet the Navy's expectations. The GAO jumped on the user complaints and the results of the baseline testing to claim - much as they have in other investigations of other EW equipment, regardless of the service - that the Navy was buying equipment before it was fully tested.

Raytheon and the service have taken the charges seriously (see "Navy, Raytheon Combat SLQ-32 Rumours as Investigation Looms" in the June 1992 "EC-Monitor," p. 28). According to Navy sources, the problems cited in the GAO report should be fixed in the next three months. Whether this wih appease the congressional watchdog remains to be seen - particularly if rumours that the agency is preparing a more in-depth report on further alleged EW shipboard failings prove true. The report is expected to broaden its tar brush to include systems other than the SLQ-32.

Navy sources expect congressional interest in the SLQ-32 to increase as the Navy acts on Capitol Hill mandates to integrate hard-kill and soft-kill assets into an overall ship defense system. One result of Congress's dictates in this area will be the Quick Reaction Combat Capability demonstration expected to take place within the next 12 months. This demonstration will see target data passed among the Close-In Weapons System (which directs the Phalanx battery), the Rolling Airframe Missile and the SLQ-32, with the potential of more systems being added.

This effort is being managed by the Ships Self-defense Program Office, which is also working on the Rapid Antiship Missile Integrated Defense System (RAIDS). RAIDS is a decision aid that lets the tactical action officer observe the combat situation, determine which resources are at his disposal and employ those resources most effectively. The Navy has conducted demonstrations of the Phase I version of the system and expects to begin operational evaluations this fall or winter. If the system works, the Navy will buy a limited number until the total Ships Self-defense Program absorbs them into its larger integration efforts.


The evolution in ship sensor systems is paralleled by that of countermeasures. Unfortunately, one program that shows promise may never be fielded.

The Nulka expendable is a joint US-Australian effort that promised precision decoy placement via a rocketpowered vehicle (see "Will Leaner Lead to Meaner" by Stephen M. Hardy, JED, April 1992, p. 31). An operational assessment will occur this fall, and the system is expected to do well. However, a lack of production funds will undoubtedly stop the program in its tracks after the assessment, sources indicate.

A new version of the service's Torch IR decoy appears to be in much better shape. A Milestone III review of an improved version of the expendable is slated for this summer, with a production decision expected to follow if the review is satisfactory.

The Torch complements the Sea Gnat RF countermeasures that are a NATO standard. The Sea Gnat series includes the MK 214 RF Seduction and MK 216 RF Distraction rounds, both fired from the MK 36 Super Rapid Blooming Offboard Countermeasures (SRBOC) launcher. These expendables are manufactured in the US by Loral Hycor (Woburn, MA) and Tracor San Ramon Operations (San Ramon, CA). The two companies are well versed in the countermeasures arena, and have used their expertise to develop systems for use both in the US and overseas.

For example, Loral Hycor markets an aircraft-dispensed AIRBOC round for naval protection, as well as its own series of 112- and 130-mm cartridges for international applications. The line includes the CHAFFSTAR RF seduction, LOROC RF distraction, HIRAM IR seduction and GEMINI dual RF/IR seduction cartridges. For navies not blessed with SLQ-32s and their countermeasures launching features, the company's ALEX Countermeasure System provides an automatic launching capability tied to the ship's RWR/ESM, wind and navigation sensors.

Tracor also has developed an automatic launching system, called the Shipboard Countermeasure Interface Package (SCIP). It too uses data from the RWR/ESM and other ship sensors to automatically determine the proper countermeasure and the tube from which to launch it. Semi-automatic and manual launching can also be accommodated. The company also manufactures an export version of the MK 36 launcher, which a Tracor spokesman said contains improved electronics over the US Navy's present system. Its line of "commercial" cartridges includes the TDSC Seduction Chaff, TDDC Distraction Chaff and TDIR IR Seduction cartridges, in both 113- and 130-mm versions.


In a sense, US shipboard EW is in a holding pattern, waiting for several programs to clear. The next-generation system is waiting the completion of the COEA; the SLQ-32 is waiting for its integration into present weapons systems and perhaps another visit from the GAO. When the waiting is over, sailors are sure to find their EW systems WHI have a new look - one undoubtedly based on modular, open architectures that enable the system to interact with other sensors to provide enhanced situational awareness, plus an improved ability to react to that situation effectively.
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Title Annotation:US Navy electronic warfare assets
Author:Hardy, Stephen M.
Publication:Journal of Electronic Defense
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Aug 1, 1992
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