GAO estimates the total value of the program will be $1.9 billion.
The Navy awarded Raytheon Co. a $279 million technology development contract for its Next Generation Jammer to replace a tactical aircraft system continuously in use since the Vietnam War.
Pilots use aircraft jammers to counter enemy radars and radio communication systems. The Naval Air Systems Command said the Next Generation Jammer will “transform how the service executes its Airborne Electronic Attack mission.”
Rick Yuse, president of Raytheon’s Space and Airborne Systems business, said the company provided the Navy “with an innovative and efficient design capable of jamming current and future threats,” but he did not provide details.
Raytheon needs to demonstrate the capabilities of the new jammer over the next 22 months, after which an engineering and manufacturing development contract will follow in 2015.
NAVAIR said the new jammer will not be installed on the Navy’s fleet of 114 EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft until 2020. The Government Accountability Office has pegged the total value of the program at $1.9 billion.
Until then, the Navy will fly its Growler fleet equipped with the obsolete AN/ALQ-99 jammer system first used in Vietnam in 1972, a time span of 48 years.
The Growler, a two-seat version of the Boeing F/A 18 Super Hornet stuffed with electronics and equipped with external jamming pods, had its first test flight in 2004 and went into operation in 2009. In March 2010, GAO reported that the EA-18G “exhibited low reliability, due primarily to the frequent failure of the legacy ALQ-99 jamming pods and their newly designed pod interface units.”
GAO also reported that the ALQ-99 pods, along with external weapons, slowed the flight speed of the Growler to such an extent it could not keep up with the strike aircraft it was escorting. The Growler will replace the Northrop Grumman EA-6B Prowler developed in the 1960s, which has a pilot and three electronic warfare officers. According to GAO, the two-person crew of the Growler found the “workload for performing radar and communications jamming for missions with modified escort profiles was close to exceeding aircrew’s abilities to maintain required functionality or effectiveness.”
The Royal Australian Air Force plans to buy 12 Growlers at a cost of $1.5 billion, which includes aircraft and jammers.
Raytheon won the fly-off for the Next Generation Jammer in a competition to develop prototypes with BAE Systems, ITT, and Northrop Grumman. NAVAIR kicked off the competition in July 2010.