Three Hammerhead USVs are seen here to the left of the picture positioned on the flight deck of a warship. These boats will form part of the RCN’s NOMAD initiative.

The Royal Canadian Navy’s NOMAD programme moves ahead with a contract award, and a roadmap for test and evaluation.

In 2018 the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) launched the Naval Off-board Anti-Missile Active Decoy initiative, better known as the NOMAD programme. This intends to equip the RCN with an anti-missile system based on an Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV). In October 2019 Rheinmetall Canada, the prime contractor for the NOMAD initiative, selected Elbit Systems to provide the jamming payload for the Meggitt Hammerhead USV which constitutes the off-board element of NOMAD.

Armada Analysis approached Elbit regarding the Electronic Warfare (EW) systems it was offering to support NOMAD, but was told that the company could not comment on the programme. It is possible that the jammer to be provided by Elbit will be based on its Aqua Marine naval EW product. The firm’s literature states that this stretches from X-band (8.5 gigahertz/GHz to 10.68GHz) up to K-band (24.05 to 24.25GHz), adding that this can be extendable into millimetre wave frequencies of 30 gigahertz and above. This would give the decoy the ability to protect a vessel against Anti-Ship Missiles (AShMs) using X-band and K-band Active Radar Homing (ARH) seekers, with the 30GHz and above extension tackling Ka-band (33.4-36GHz) ARH-guided systems. Such wavebands could become increasingly popular for AShM developers due to the fact that the short wavelengths of Ka-band transmissions, typically of 90mm to 83mm, can depict targets with a high level of detail improving an AShM’s ability to discriminate its target from other vessels and decoys. The ability of a system like NOMAD to jam and spoof AShMs using ARH seekers transmitting in Ka-band thus becomes paramount.

The Hammerhead USV which accommodate the NOMAD jammers has been designed for naval training and is routinely used as a target drone. Arguably this makes it a good platform to simulate a naval vessel for the purpose of electronically attacking an anti-ship missile. The craft can reach a top speed of 40 knots (74.1 kilometres-per-hour) and has an endurance of circa 24 hours when travelling at speeds of 20 knots (37km/h). Up to four of the USVs can be controlled by a single operator. This would allow several NOMAD craft to protect a single vessel. These craft could inundate the ARH seeker of an AShM by simulating multiple, seemingly identical, vessels; all of which could appear as lucrative targets for the missile. Alternatively a single USV could be used to transmit deception waveforms to make the missile lose its lock and follow a more tempting, but false, target.

An official statement provided to Armada Analysis by the RCN stated that the NOMAD programme is initially focused on proving that an electronic countermeasure could be placed on an uninhabited platform to enhance the survivability of a ship: “Tactics will be developed once the NOMAD architecture is finalised.” The statement added that the test and evaluation period for NOMAD is expected to commence in mid-2021: “A determination to enter the NOMAD system into service will be made after that period.”

by Dr. Thomas Withington