Northrop looks to adapt electronic attack system for smaller ships



WASHINGTON — Northrop Grumman is conducting research and development to adapt its electronic attack platform — built for the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer — to fit on smaller ships, a company official said.

“We’re also looking at opportunities to scale down the system for smaller ship classes — frigates and smaller — and looking at ways to make a scaled-down version of SEWIP that can be effectively employed and rapidly installed on the smaller ship classes,” Mike Meaney, vice president of land and maritime sensors at Northrop, told C4ISRNET.

SEWIP is the Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program Block 3. This version provides ships with a non-kinetic, electronic attack capability, enabling them an “unlimited volley of bullets” to knock down incoming missiles.

Meaney previously stated the company was working on a contract to develop a technology data package based on SEWIP technology for larger-deck ships such as aircraft carriers and amphibious assault ships.

The design activity for that effort is expected to wrap up this year. Once done, the U.S. Navy will have the opportunity to buy them, but Meaney wasn’t sure what the Navy has planned.

Now, Northrop is working on its own to adapt the system based on inklings the Navy would like this type of soft-kill capability on smaller ships.

“On smaller ships sizes, we know it’s of great interest to the Navy to put this soft-kill capability with unlimited bullets on almost every ship that they have because the incredible protection electronic warfare offers you,” Meaney said. “We know that they’re interested in doing that, so we’re off on our own trying to develop what we think would make sense to go do in anticipation of the Navy having a requirement to do a scaled-down version of it.”

Meaney said the hope is the Navy will release a requirement for this capability in the coming year. He couldn’t offer specifics regarding how they are looking to scale the system, given Northrop is in the middle of that effort, but he did note that smaller ships don’t have as much cooling or power available and don’t need as much radio-frequency energy to effectively jam. The company, he added, is trying to find the right balance of radio frequency versus available power and cooling.

Northrop is focused on frigates for this smaller capability, but Meaney said the firm is taking a broad approach to figure out an easy configuration for installation on a wide variety of ships.

Block 3 integration

Meaney also said Northrop has ongoing production contracts for the SEWIP Block 3 system with a limited-rate initial production contract to complete two systems.

The company has shipped one and is beginning installation aboard an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer on the West Coast, although due to sensitivities, he declined to name a specific ship.

There also isn’t an exact date set for competition of the installation or sea trials. The second ship planned for integration won’t happen for some time due to when the ship will be available for retrofit activity.

There are three systems under contract for follow-on production.

Moreover, Meaney said, Northrop is anticipating an order for about four more systems in the current fiscal year, bringing the total number of Block 3 systems under contract to nine in the next few months.

Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.



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