GAO: Pentagon Should Address Jammer ‘Overlaps’

 - September 6, 2013, 10:50 AM
The Next Generation Jammer, depicted in this graphic, will be fitted to U.S. Navy EA-18G Growlers beginning in 2020. (Photo: Navair)

The U.S. Navy’s estimated $7 billion Next Generation Jammer (NGJ) development does not duplicate any existing airborne electronic attack capability. But the potential exists for some “overlap” with electronic attack systems being developed by other U.S. military services, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) advises.

The NGJ will replace the ALQ-99 tactical jamming system on the Navy’s EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft beginning in 2020. In July, the Naval Air Systems Command awarded Raytheon a $279.4 million contract for the NGJ technology development phase. Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems also competed for the program; the latter has protested the contract award to the GAO.

In the 2013 defense appropriations bill, the Senate directed the GAO to review the NGJ program “to determine if there are redundancies across the services and assess whether this effort should become a joint service solution.” Reporting back last month, the GAO said that Department of Defense (DOD) analyses of the NGJ program are correct in concluding that it “meets a valid need and is not duplicative” in its primary role of suppressing enemy air defenses from beyond the range of known surface-to-air missiles.

But since the DOD completed some of those analyses, other services have planned or initiated electronic attack programs that could overlap some NGJ capabilities. Among examples are an Air Force multi-platform electronic attack pod upgrade; the Army’s communications electronic attack with surveillance and reconnaissance (Ceasar) system being tested on the MQ-1C Gray Eagle; and the Marine Corps’ Intrepid Tiger Block 1 pod for fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft. Contractors General Atomics and Northrop Grumman recently demonstrated electronic attack capability on an MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft for the Marines.

The Army’s electronic warfare division told the GAO that “although the NGJ-equipped EA-18Gs would have a role in helping to establish air superiority before the Army enters an area, the Army plans to rely on its own airborne electronic attack systems to perform the necessary jamming in support of its ground forces.” Similarly, the Marine Corps told the agency that it “does not plan to rely solely on Navy EA-18Gs with NGJ to support its air and ground forces.”

In its report to Congress, the GAO recommends that the Navy “address overlap and duplication” with other electronic attack systems in the NGJ capability development document. It calls upon the DOD to provide Congress with “complete information” about the relationship between electronic warfare programs.