Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Defence wants to buy obsolete jamming gear for Super Hornet

It is ever so sad to see Defence make yet more silly statements about air power; proving again that they don't know what they don't know.

Defence want to waste more of your money on the Super Hornet. Going ahead and making 12 of the Super's into the Growler/Grizzly jammer configuration comes with a big problem; the jamming kit is obsolete and the U.S. Navy knew it when they fielded the aircraft. This is what I wrote about the Growler/Grizzly back in 2008.

Years ago, the U.S. Navy stated the reason the next generation jammer (NGJ) was needed is that the legacy ALG-99 pods they had on their current dedicated jamming aircraft were not able to stand up against advanced threats, were too expensive to maintain and that the NGJ would do the trick. NGJ got cancelled. Guess what pods ended up on the jammer variant of their new Super Hornets just a few years ago?

The next generation jammer project has be relaunched again but it is still in development and given the funding problems of the U.S. and the U.S. Navy's prime goal of funding big expensive grey floaty things uber alles, there is no solid time when we will ever see this kit.

Defence also makes some rather silly statements about the justification for this waste.

Defence Minister Stephen Smith and the Minister for Defence Materiel, Jason Clare, said the Super Hornet would ensure Australia's air combat dominance in the region until the arrival of the Joint Strike Fighter after 2018.

Gee, I wonder who told them that? Smith and Clare would do better if they understood the gear they were getting was useless junk. But yeah, we need to spend money on this simply because so many project of concern list items that are faulty are holding up justifications for Defence spending.

Way to go guys.

24 comments:

geogen said...

Interesting development... and indeed one more cost to factor in.

Although, I wasn't even aware that the US authorized the sale of the full jamming suite? I knew there was some chatter about possibly wanting to at least configure them with 'electronically-aware' Growler-lite capacity.

Regarding effectiveness: I'm curious if it would be an export-modified version then, with some modes or capabilities reduced, or something which AUS could control and possibly enhance/upgrade incrementally?

But it's interesting that while the US would not export F-22 to her closest and most trusted allies (even when the export-friendly model's development would have been funded by the foreign party), classified electronic technologies such as AEGIS and Growler and systems such as SM-3 are cleared.

Regardless, this brings up another topic and question... which ECM jamming equipment available (either exportable, or available for US services) would be the most capable and modern pod on the market to equip legacy platforms such as Super Hornet and F-15E to name a couple??

Are other touted AESA-based and/or AEA/SoJ capable pods which are apparently on the market, equivalent or superior in some aspects to the best US-based systems?

Also, with respect to potential future RAAF Super Hornet buys... I'd also be curious if any special pre-wiring would need to go into the unit production, for the stock F-18E/F EW management system to be able to effectively integrate different force-multiplying OEM ECM solutions available on the market?

If so, it would seem worth considering for a stock F-18E/F to employ some relatively modern 'Growler-lite' capabilities with an 'all-in-one' centerline-station installed pod?

ELP said...

Some time ago; Australia already paid to have 12 of its 24 Supers wired for Growler kit when they were made. Putting the current USN spec Growler kit on those 12 machines doesn't take a terrible lot of manhours.

Anonymous said...

Has alq99 been upgraded at all?

Anonymous said...

The ALQ-99 is continuously upgraded. It has, however, design "limitations."

The reboot NJG will be a funding priority, particularly since it seems that F-35's not be able to penetrate advanced AD systems without it. Which also means that you might as well use the SH in the attack role -it's much cheaper and just as capable.

Anonymous said...

Good point anon 2. Maybe this is an indication that the RAAF has privately given up on waiting for F-35 and has begun implementing plan B - more F-18SH supported by Growlers.

Yobbo

Horde said...

Developing an EA/Airborne Jamming capability around the AN/ALQ-99 was recommended, with detailed plans, to senior officials in the Defence Portfolio over a decade ago.

Some of the details may be found on the APA website via a simple search on the text string "ALQ-99".

This system is now a further 10 years older while current plans have resulted in less than capable platforms for carrying the system.

More importantly and significantly, the world has changed, with far more capable reference threats proliferating in the region than was the case back in the 1990s, though the plans provided both predicted and addressed such arisings.

Interesting that an idea that is now well over a decade old is considered innovative if not new yet addressing the changed threat environment doesn't even get a mention.

Magoodotcom said...

Horde

I suspect the problem with APA's ALQ-99 proposal wasn't the pods, but the EF-111 platform.

Magoo

Anonymous said...

EF111, why?

Anonymous said...

Yeh, I would buy into that, what difference does the platform make to the quality of the electronics?
And as I remember he EF111 did not carry pods?

Cocidius said...

The Raven 2 had Mach 2 supersonic dash so it could RUN if things got out of hand. The Superbug quipped with the ALQ-99 pods is limited to subsonic operations only.

Just the perfect combination when dealing with a modern SAM system like the S-300/400 which fires a missile that travels somewhere between Mach 4-6.

Can you say turkey shoot??

Anonymous said...

Depends how far the Growler steps inside the MEZ... only a fool would go in further than he could run out.

Anonymous said...

Further to my post directly above. Consider a MEZ of 100nm RMax with a mach 5 missile.

Assuming constant missile flyout for simplicity, the missile is flying 50nm/min, so engagement range time to RMax is 2min.

A raven at Mach 2 is doing 20nm/min. A rhino at Mach 1 would be doing 10nm/min.

Therefore, the raven wouldn't want to get inside 60nm and a Rhino 80nm.

That assumes of course instantaneous detect of missile launch and instantaneous acceleration to top speed. Both aircraft would presumably be in the 0.8-0.9 region while jamming.

The real discriminator will now be how fast could the Raven have got to Mach 2 from 0.8-0.9? I'm sure it would be at least a minute, (at what fuel weight could it actually get to mach 2?). The point is, a more realistic range for the Raven would probably be no closer than 70nm.

My point is that the extra mach 1 gives not much at all (there are much more important considerations for a jammer).

Bonza said...

The EF-111 Raven had to run. It was unarmed. It didn't have AMRAAM, HARM/AARGM or JSOW to help it out if things got "hairy".

Anonymous said...

Why cannot it carry those weapons?

Graeme said...

If a NGJ is built and fielded - would it be backward compatiable with the wiring on the SH to allow for a simple upgrade?

I.e. is there a potential silver lining to this dark cloud.

Gobsmacked said...

"Because of the aircraft's spectacular success in the Libyan conflict, the Gillard government is considering soon spending more than $300 million having half of the 24-strong Super Hornet fleet fitted out for electronic warfare."

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/defence/raaf-fighter-bombers-to-become-growlers/story-e6frg8yo-1226170085768

The spin gets better,they shot up a palm tree and two camels who farted, giving an indication that there was a launch of something suspect, and then someone turned on his HF radio to speak to his mate.
I am gobsmacked

Bonza said...

Anon,

Because it was based on an -A model F-111 which could not even employ LGB's, let alone the more advanced "J-Series" weapons the Growler employs.

The internal weapons bay was filled with electronic warfare kit and the "right hand seat" avionics fit was significantly modified with the EW kit needed for the mission, with even the flight controls removed. Basically all the attack capabilities had to be removed to allow for the EW fit.

It featured a radar redesigned primarily for a ground mapping (as opposed to attack ore terrain following capability in standard F-111's) and consequently didn't have the radar capability for a BVR air to air missile, didn't have the stores management capability, didn't have the wiring and so on.

I'm sure the EF-111 could probably have carried basic unguided bombs from an inherent capability point of view, but they wouldn't have been much use on a standoff EW asset.

Mostly I suspect however that it didn't have those sort of capabilities included in the aircraft, because it was employed within the USAF which (at the time) had an absolute multitude of assets to perform those missions and the cost of modifying the aircraft to do so, simply wasn't considered worth it.

The Growler however is following on from the Prowler which (except for the AMRAAM missile) has always had SEAD missile capability ever since the old AGM-145 Shrike missile and is employed by the USN that has to get more use from it's limited (in theatre) assets, plus the overall diminishing in numbers US military aircraft, means they have to do more with less...

Bonza said...

Graeme,

Yep the NGJ is designed to replace the ALQ-99 on the Growler primarily.

Whether it migrates to other assets remains to be seen, but so long as the program is continued, it will be employed almost exclusively from the Growler.

http://www.as.northropgrumman.com/products/jammer/index.html

Anonymous said...

Bonza,come in spinner.

Gobsmacked said...

"I suspect the problem with APA's ALQ-99 proposal wasn't the pods, but the EF-111 platform."
Magoo, could explain why the platform is the problem and not the electronics.

Cocidius said...

Just as a clarification; comparing the standard Superbug flying at Mach 1 vs. the Raven flying a Mach 2 is a problematic since we're talking about a Growler which is limited to subsonic operations due to its jamming pods.

Also, when discussing a Missile Engagement Zone (MEZ) and talking about networked modern SAM systems like over China and Russia, its possible to have multiple missile/radar types deployed with totally different range and speed characteristics creating different MEZ zones at different altitudes and distances. In reality its not easy to know where you're safe so have high Mach dash capability is VERY desirable in a jamming platform.

Lastly I need to mention the miserable reliability of ALQ-99 and the significant issues between the jamming gear and the AN/APG-79 AESA radar in the Growler.

Overall if you're planning on attacking 3rd world nation with rudimentary SAM systems, the EA-18G is a great aircraft. However taking on someone like China in the future is going to take something significantly better.

Bonza said...

Everyone's entitled to their opinion, but Red Flag, Northern Edge type exercises have shown otherwise.

Thinking we understand the full capability of EW systems, from open sourced info is just a touch naive...

I agree the Growler needs a replacement for the ALQ-99 and hopefully NGJ stays on track to provide that, but to argue Growler offers "no" capability against a modern IADS is just plain ridiculous.

ELP said...

Then you would be in disagreement with the U.S. Navy who is the source of those slides in the link.

And also this from two years ago.

http://goo.gl/liMRC

Pudgy can maybe get into the area of interest, but it won't be able to get out without being killed.

Good enough though if you want to fight yesterday's legacy threats like ALLIED FORCE 1999.

Gobsmacked said...

"Everyone's entitled to their opinion, but Red Flag, Northern Edge type exercises have shown otherwise. " (Really)

Thinking we understand the full capability of EW systems, from open sourced info is just a touch naive..."

Are you not sourcing your info about Red Flag etc from "open sourced" info?