With around 1,000 employees, the electronic warfare arm of Selex ES is a major player in the EW marketplace, as a lead integrator on programs, such as the Praetorian defensive system of the Eurofighter Typhoon; a provider of equipment; and as a developer of new technology. It is also increasingly involved in supporting EW operations of air arms as nations move toward greater control over their own electronic warfare resources.
A key facility is the Electronic Warfare Operational Support (EWOS) unit that was established in Lincoln, UK, in 2008. Initially created to provide operational support to the Royal Air Force, and located close to that service’s Air Warfare Centre at RAF Waddington, EWOS has expanded its capabilities to introduce training for both UK and overseas personnel, and to support real-world operations through the development of mission data files/sets that program the electronic warfare equipment of various air assets.
Mission data sets are crucial to the effective operation of EW equipment, as they program the types of threat that are prevalent in the operational theater, and also the responses to those threats. Selex ES has developed a sophisticated concept-to-capability tool that can rapidly update mission data to take into account emerging threats, so that a new file can be ready for either immediate use or for testing in less than an hour after receiving the data of a new emitter. Selex ES’s EWOS division supports the UK in this work, but is also helping other nations to develop their own sovereign EWOS capability so that they can respond to the threats that face them directly. Nine countries are under contract, and there are several other firm prospects.
Here in the Gulf region, sovereign EW operational support is growing. For instance, in the UAE the capability already exists to reprogram the Falcon Edge EW system on the country’s Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters, and that of the Dassault Mirage 2000 fleet. Selex ES is working with Saudi Arabia to develop its own sovereign EWOS capability to support the nation’s Typhoon fleet, among others. As the sovereign capability is being created, the Lincoln site is providing day-to-day operational support, as well as training Saudi personnel to staff the country’s own center.
Selex ES’s Hidas system equips the Boeing AH-64s attack helicopters of Kuwait, which is also in the process of establishing a sovereign capability. The first batch of Kuwaiti personnel completed a training course at Lincoln in July this year, and Selex ES has assigned a field specialist to Kuwait to assist, along with a number of mission data sets that can be tailored in-country. Greece is another nation that is looking to establish a full sovereign capability for its AH-64 Apache helicopters, which are equipped with the Selex ES Hidas defensive aids system.
At the heart of the Lincoln EWOS facility is a laboratory where both training and trials can be undertaken. Housed in a Faraday cage that not only keeps extraneous “noise” from affecting its operations but also stops any potentially sensitive emissions escaping, the laboratory is equipped with simulators that generate RF signals that can be run into the signal processors of electronic warfare equipment. Using software to generate these signals is much cheaper than using real hardware, although the latter can also be used if required.
Alongside the laboratory are classrooms for training. A number of courses are offered, covering a variety of requirements and at varying levels of knowledge. The Lincoln site can train up to 42 personnel at one time, and in 2014 is expecting to conduct 435 total training days, as compared with 175 this year. The increase is largely due to the requirements of the Saudi contract.
While the EWOS unit was created initially to support the equipment in which Selex ES acts as integrator or supplier, the company’s EWOS activities can also be applied to equipment from other manufacturers. Wynne Davies, head of strategic EW campaigns for Selex ES (Stand 1933), acknowledged that there are some issues when moving into areas involving the IP of other companies, but noted that, “We can put in place half the velcro. We can put up the hooks from which they hang their kit, whether it’s U.S., French or Russian.”