House and Senate appropriators are worried about delays and premature funding for two of the Navy’s most high-profile electronic warfare programs.
In a spending bill released Dec. 16, appropriators provided $340 million for the principal electronic warfare system carried by Navy surface ships, formally known as AN/SLQ-32. The Department of Defense had requested about $420 million for that program. Specifically, lawmakers said the block 3 portion of the program that would upgrade the fleet's capability to electronically attack anti-ship missiles was “early to need.”
Lawmakers had taken a similar position in the annual defense policy bill.
In addition, House and Senate leaders budgeted $581 million for the Navy’s premier standoff electronic attack platform, known as the Next Generation Jammer, and for the program’s second increment. That’s about $53 million less than the Pentagon requested in budget documents released in March.
Early to need
The AN/SLQ-32 program can detect aircraft search and target radars before they detect the ship. It also prevents the long-range targeting of the ship and to deceive missiles launched against the ship.
Northrop Grumman, the prime contractor on the block 3 part of the program, said in late October it is on track for the first targeted installation of the block 3 system on an Arleigh-Burke-class guided missile destroyer in 2021.
The proposal process for full rate production is expected to begin in early 2020 and the program is expected to reach that milestone in 2023.
Lawmakers said the Navy did not yet need funding for the block 3 kit, block 3 training systems or block 3 installation funding. They did not elaborate.
Next generation jamming
Meanwhile, the Next Generation Jammer is the Navy’s $8 billion plan to update the legacy jamming pods aboard EA-18 Growlers. As part of its strategy, the Navy broke the program into three pods: low band, mid band and high band.
Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and L3 are among the contractors on the program.
In the spending bill, congressional leaders cited delays with a hardware procurement contract and delays in test and evaluation. Their plan, the result of a negotiation between House and Senate conference committee members, docked the Navy about $16 million for hardware procurement contract delays and another $16 million for test and evaluation delays. For the second increment, integration with aircraft was noted as premature, and resulted in $7 million less in funding than the Pentagon asked for.
It is not immediately clear which tests were delayed, but in the spring 2019 budget request, Navy officials moved the start of some mission system testing from summer 2019 to early 2020. That test is expected to take about six months.
Adversaries can both hide and attack certain systems within the entirety of the electromagnetic spectrum. To combat that threat, the military needs systems that can operate the across that spectrum. National security experts have said the spectrum is too expansive for a single pod to handle, which led to high, mid and low pods.