Tiger Balm

The US Marine Corps performed the first operational flight of the AN/ALQ-231(V)3 Intrepid Tiger-II self-protection pod in 2016. Roll-out of the AN/ALQ-231(V)4 version is expected by 2024.

The US Marine Corps expects to complete the roll-out of its AN/ALQ-231(V) Intrepid Tiger-II self-protection pods across its fixed-wing and rotary fleet by 2024.

The AN/ALQ-231(V)’s genesis can be traced back to late 2008 when the US Marine Corps (USMC) issued an operational requirement letter pertaining to the Marine Air Ground Task Force Electronic Warfare 2020 plan. This dealt with USMC airborne capabilities upon the retirement of the forces’ Northrop Grumman EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare aircraft which occurred in March 2019.

The AN/ALQ-231(V) is an aircraft self-protection system which presently furnishes several USMC aircraft. The AN/ALQ-231(V)1 variant equips the Marine’s McDonnell Douglas/Boeing AV-8B Harrier-2 combat aircraft while the AN/ALQ-231(V)3 outfits the Bell UH-1Y Venom light utility helicopter. Although not published, the AN/ALQ-231(V)1/3 is thought to cover a waveband of at least 30 megahertz to three gigahertz. Open sources note that the pod can perform electronic attack against hostile communications systems. The USMC notes that plans are afoot to roll out the AN/ALQ-231 across other airframes. For example the AN/ALQ-231(V)1 pod has commenced integration onboard the Corps’ Lockheed Martin KC-130J tankers.

Over the longer term, the AN/ALQ-231(V)3 is expected to be cleared for service onboard the Bell AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter with integration and testing commencing in the 2021 to 2024 timeframe. Similarly, modernisations of the AN/ALQ-231(V)1/3 hardware are on the horizon. USMC documents note that the AN/ALQ-231(V)4 incarnation is expected to commence production between 2021 and 2023. This will include the wherewithal to act as a communications electronic support measure as well as performing electronic attack against hostile communications systems. The documents continued that this variant could migrate to the Insitu/Boeing RC-21A Blackjack unmanned aerial vehicle flown by the Marines. The AH-1Z, UH-1Y and the RQ-21A will receive the AN/ALQ-231(V)4 from 2024, 2022 and 2024 respectively.

Meanwhile, the AN/ALQ-231(V)1 Block-X evolution may see the expansion of the pod’s capabilities to perform electronic attack against hostile radars. This implies a potential bandwidth extension beyond three gigahertz/GHz, possibly to 18GHz or 40GHz. The documents continued that this version could be developed as a podded system to equip the AV-8B and McDonnell Douglas/Boeing F/A-18A/B and Boeing F/A-18C/D Hornet fighters. Conversely, the AN/ALQ-231(V)1 Block-X could outfit the Bell-Boeing MV-22B Osprey tilt-rotor as an internal payload. In terms of timeframe, the AN/ALQ-231(V)1 Block-X could begin to outfit the F/A-18 from 2022, the AV-8B from 2023, the MV-22B from 2024, the KC-130J from 2025 and Sikorsky CH-53E/K heavylift helicopters from 2026.

by Dr. Thomas Withington