Navy Adds Helicopter Electronic War Anti-Ship Missile Defense

Lockheed is developing an EW pod for both MH-60 R/S Sea Hawk versions to help provide anti-ship missile defense as part of Lockheed’s Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program

To provide better sea-surface electronic warfare capability, Lockheed Martin is marrying enhanced sensors with MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopters.

The company is developing an EW pod for both MH-60 R/S Sea Hawk versions to help provide anti-ship missile defense as part of Lockheed’s Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program (SEWIP), says Joe Ottaviano, company EW director.

Called the Advanced Offboard Electronic Warfare (AOEW) system, the airborne sensor and links will extend the range over the horizon and offer some electronic attack potential, Ottaviano said Jan. 9 during a Lockheed briefing in advance of the Surface Navy Association annual conference.

The system can be used for more than just surveillance, he says, and provides the Navy with a first-look capability out on the seas. “You can sense and see long before the enemy know you are there,” he says. But, he adds, he cannot provide any more detail about potential offensive EW measures the system can provide.

Currently, according to the Navy and the Pentagon, only Boeing EA-18G Growlers provide airborne electronic attack.

 With a contract award in December, he says, the program is on a fast track that the Navy wants to accelerate. “We have been challenged to go faster,” he says.

Under the SEWIP’s Block 2, the AOEW helicopter pod will be linked with the ships’ SLQ-32 system.

Senior Navy officials have said that upgraded SEWIPs were being acquired for many of the Navy’s forward-positioned ships in strategic locations such as Japan and Rota, Spain.

The USS Bainbridge went through operational testing several years ago as the Navy acquired its first 24 Block 2SEWIP units..

“SEWIP is the Navy’s continued push to keep electronic warfare excellence ahead of the threat. It is an incremental set of upgrades to the SLQ-32 which was designed in the late 70s and deployed in the 80s. It gives the Navy the ability to upgrade and outpace the threat. It provides the ability to quickly upgrade processing as new threats come online and become more complex without overhauling the antenna,” Ottaviano said a in an interview several years ago with (from Kris Osborn)

The Block 2 SEWIP advancements include upgrades to the antenna and digital receiver, Ottaviano said. Block 2 upgrades also include the addition of new software engineered to ensure the system is equipped to recognize new, emerging threat signals. 

“It provides the digital architecture so it can quickly upgrade and provide additional capability as threats increase in capability,” Ottaviano added.

The Navy plans to configure including carriers, cruisers, destroyers and amphibs, among others.

The hardware to the system consists of above and below deck components including a display screen and processing technology, he added.

The hardware may be configured differently depending upon the structure of a given ship, Ottaviano explained.

For example, the EW antenna on the Navy’s new destroyer, the DDG 1000, is conformed to align with the ship’s hull.

Following SEWIP Block 2, the Navy plans to develop and acquire a Block 3 SEWIP electronic attack technology, Navy and Lockheed officials said.

In addition to “listening” or passive electromagnetic detection, Block 3 will include the ability to transmit signals and potentially jam or disrupt enemy signals.

Under the SEWIP operational concept, the MH-60R already plays a role with its multi-mission AN/ALQ-210 Electronic Support Measures (ESM) system, That system provides proven situational awareness and threat warning with Electronics Intelligence quality measurement accuracy in complex and dense electronic battlefield scenarios, Lockheed says.

The system is currently in full rate production for the U.S. Navy and International customers.

The AN/ALQ-210 ESM system autonomously scans the environment allowing for a high probability of detection and accurate identification, the company says. The system operation is tailorable through mission data loads which can be reloaded in flight for adapting to each specific geographic region.

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