The Army has awarded Lockheed Martin a contract to work on the service’s first of its kind airborne electronic warfare pod that will be used to provide brigade commanders a new jamming capability that the Army says will provide the commander a competitive advantage by denying and degrading enemy capabilities.
Through a rapid prototyping contract vehicle, Lockheed Martin was awarded two sequential 18-month phased efforts for the Multi-Function Electronic Warfare (MFEW) Air Large program, a spokesman, Brandon Pollachek, from Program Executive Office Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors (IEW&S) told C4ISRNET in response to written questions.
The contract is valued at $18 million, according to a Jan. 29 release from Lockheed.
MFEW Air Large is a pod that will be mounted aboard an MQ-1C Gray Eagle unmanned aircraft and will provide brigade commanders two new capabilities. The first is the ability an organic electronic attack, or jamming, and the second is electronic support capabilities, which is essentially the sensing of the electromagnetic spectrum environment. Officials and members of the defense industry have also noted MFEW Air Large includes requirements to conduct cyberattacks.
For years, the Army has been intensifying a years’ long campaign to introduce both cyber and EW capability at the tactical edge. The former has not previously existed. They also want to restore EW capability at all echelons and levels of the battlefield all the way up to the strategic level in response to similar sophisticated capabilities exhibited by Russia. Given the expected ubiquity of electronic warfare in future battlefields, these new capabilities are viewed as critical.
Pollachek said the MFEW Air Large design is based on a Lockheed Martin development called Silent Crow, which was successfully demonstrated and provides a number of electronic warfare capabilities that meet the MFEW requirements.
Lockheed said Silent CROW can be easily configured for a variety of airborne and ground platforms and enables soldiers to disrupt, deny, degrade, deceive and destroy adversaries’ electronic systems through electronic support, electronic attack and cyber techniques.
“Lockheed Martin’s deep roots in cyberspace allow us to anticipate future threats while actively solving today’s most complex cyber problems,” Deon Viergutz, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s Spectrum Convergence, said. “We’re prioritizing the Army’s critical needs by partnering with them and investing in new technologies that are scalable and affordable.”
According to Pollachek, in the first phase of the contract Lockheed will deliver one prototype system and demonstrate airborne electronic attack and electronic support capabilities aboard a surrogate aircraft.
After completion of the first phase, Lockheed Martin will deliver four systems to be integrated aboard Gray Eagles. Phase 2 is planned for the first quarter of fiscal year 2020.
Based on the success of Lockheed’s Silent Crow, Pollachek said the Army is evaluating options to accelerate the program and potentially bring the capabilities to the Army faster, as early as fourth quarter fiscal year 2019.
The original MFEW program was slated to be phased over several years, first with aerial capabilities, then by adding ground vehicle capabilities and dismounted soldier capabilities. Recently, however, the Army decided to get rid of MFEW ground element in favor of a new integrated capability with the military intelligence tribe.
The Army developers working on MFEW ground realized that their intelligence brethren were developing almost an identical capability, so the two bodies decided to join forces.
The new air capability, the Terrestrial Layer System, is a SIGINT/EW system projected to be fielded on vehicles to provide brigade commanders a means to deliver the electronic attack effects.
Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.