This year’s Euronaval exhibition is taking place online. The event, which normally happens in Paris, is being presented digitally because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
The move online has not stopped companies unveiling new naval electronic warfare products. Etienne Lacroix is showcasing its VESTA jammer. VESTA is an acronym for Versatile Electronic Warfare Self Protection Tactic Onboard Unmanned Aircraft. It comprises a rotary Uninhabited Air Vehicle (UAV) equipped with a jamming payload. This can be deployed from a ship’s countermeasures dispenser. The UAV will transmit jamming waveforms while loitering an undisclosed distance from the ship.
VESTA is designed to help protect a vessel against radar-guided Anti-Ship Missiles (AShMs). The company will not provide the payload and cannot reveal any details on the device.
Given the decoy’s targets one can assume that it can jam frequencies of at least 8.5 gigahertz/GHz to 40GHz. This will allow VESTA to attack X-band (8.5GHz to 10.68GHz), Ku-band (13.4GHz to 14GHz/15.7GHz to 17.7GHz), K-band (24.05GHz to 24.25GHz) and Ka-band (33.4GHz to 36GHz) signals. These frequencies are routinely used by AShM active radar homing seekers. The decoy will probably also transmit both seduction and deception jamming waveforms.
Following a contract awarded by France’s Agence de l’Innovation de Défense (Defence Innovation Agency/DIA), Lacroix is currently providing more detailed information to the agency and adapting the VESTA concept to its requests. A demonstration flight of the VESTA UAV is planned in the coming months. The DIA aims to advance technologies potentially useful for the French armed forces.
Company officials told Armada that VESTA could enhance Marine Nationale (French Navy) counter-AShM doctrine.
Current doctrine stresses a three-pronged approach: The first involves kinetic weapons like Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAMs) engaging the AShM. The second layer uses active electronic countermeasures, chiefly jamming, to seduce or distract the AShM away from the ship. The third layer uses passive countermeasures like radar corner reflectors to hide the ship from the AShM’s radar.
One useful attribute of VESTA and passive decoys is that they could help ships to save on expensive SAMs when engaging AShMs in the future.
Officials continued that the company has already built a prototype UAV with flight trials expected in the next few months. Formal development of a production decoy could occur by 2024 with deliveries beginning by 2030.