May Spectrum SitRep

Lockheed Martin F-35
BAE Systems was awarded a contract in May to produce AN/ASQ-239 integrated self-defence systems for the Lot-17 batch of F-35 series Lightning combat aircraft.

Armada’s monthly round-up of all the latest electronic warfare news in the product, programme and operational domains.

Lightning Protection

In early April BAE Systems received a $491 million contract to produce AN/ASQ-239 integrated self-defence systems from Lockheed Martin. These will equip F-35A/B/C Block-4 Lightening Lot-17 combat aircraft the latter is to build. A BAE Systems press release announcing the news said that 1,200 AN/ASQ-239 systems had been delivered to date equipping F-35s in service with customers around the world. The press release continued that the AN/ASQ-239 version equipping the Lot-17 aircraft will have upgraded hardware. Improved software, sensing and signal processing capabilities are also included. These additions will improve the aircraft’s ability to detect discrete threats, and to engage several threats simultaneously. A BAE Systems source told Armada that Lot-17 aircraft deliveries should start in mid-2024. The variant of the AN/ASQ-239 equipping these jets can also equip legacy aircraft.

Northrop Grumman ALQ-257 onboard F-16
Northrop Grumman’s AN/ALQ-257 Viper integrated self-protection system is designed for installation onboard all marques of F-16 combat aircraft from Block-50/52 onwards.

LIVE Performance

Elsewhere in the air domain, Northrop Grumman revealed progress the company has made on the testing of its AN/ALQ-257 Viper integrated self-protection system via an 11th April press release. The document said that “(t)he system exceeded multiple benchmarks and demonstrated the ability to counter modern radio frequency threats.” Testing was performed using the US Air Force’s Laboratory Intelligence Validated Emulator. Better known as ‘LIVE’ this apparatus injects simulated radar pulses into the AN/ALQ-257 architecture to ensure it can recognise and counter such threats. The AN/ALQ-257 is equipping General Dynamics/Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon series combat aircraft flown by US and foreign air forces. James Conroy, Northrop Grumman’s vice president of navigation, targeting and survivability, told Armada that the AN/ALQ-257 is at Technology Readiness Level-7 (TRL-7). According to US Department of Defence definitions, this TRL level says a system prototype has been demonstrated in an operational environment: “Several components are already at higher levels of maturity,” Mr. Conroy continued. He expects “platform-level critical design review, full hardware qualification and US Air Force F-16 flight testing” to occur this year. The AN/ALQ-257 is designed for installation onboard “all post-block F-16C aircraft” with the USAF prioritising the system for its F-16C/D Block-50/52 jets.

Concurrent Technologies - Hermes Plug-In Card
Concurrent Technologies’ new Hermes high-performance plug-in card can support cyber and electromagnetic activities, acting as a controller in systems focused on these missions.

Plug It In!

Concurrent Technologies announced the launch of its Hermes high-performance plug-in card this April. A press release said the product would be marketed to systems integrators. The Hermes card will also be used by the company for its system level products needing a high-performance processor. Hermes uses Intel’s recently-launched i7-13800HRE processor. Concurrent Technologies told Armada that “one of the key target applications for Hermes is to act as the controller in systems that are focussed on cyber and electromagnetic activities. These systems are often designed to understand and exploit information in the wireless spectrum, and in the modern environment, this spectrum is highly congested making it more difficult to provide timely and accurate intelligence.” The statement added that “Hermes (can execute) both traditional, as well as inference, at-the-edge AI (Artificial Intelligence) applications. (It) can be reconfigured easily as newer algorithms become available.”

MPE HEMP Filters
MPE’s HEMP filters help protect sensitive electronic equipment against damage or destruction by the electromagnetic pulse, specifically the conducted pulse triggered by such events.

Pulse Perfect

MPE has announced that the company’s HEMP (High-Performance Electromagnetic Pulse) filters meet the US Department of Defence’s MIL-STD-188-125A1 standard known as MIL-1A. These filters help protect sensitive electronic equipment against the effects of an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP). EMPs can be triggered naturally by solar activity, or artificially by nuclear detonations and specific EMP weapons. Paul Currie, MPE’s director, told Armada that any new US facility hardened against EMP effects must meet this standard. The company’s HEMP filters protect equipment against the conducted pulse resulting from an EMP event. This is “a very high power and very fast pulse, that may travel along any incoming cable,” says Mr. Currie: “If this conducted pulse is not mitigated or protected against, any piece of equipment containing electronics such as embedded chips will at best suffer from an interruption of service and, dependent upon the power and proximity of the pulse, at worst may be completely destroyed.” MPE has received the first orders for these filters which will be shipped and installed by the end of September.

Safran’s new Navkite PNT system is designed to be used in GNSS-denied environments. Navkite is now in service with the French Navy’s commando force.

Navkite for GNSS-Denied Environments

Safran has introduced a new Position, Navigation and Timing (PNT) system for use in Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) denied or degraded environments called Navkite. The company said in a press release that the system is now in service with the Marine Nationale (French Navy) commando force. Navkite equips the force’s ECUME (Embarcation Commando à Usage Multiple Embarquable/Embarkable Multipurpose Commando Craft) semi-rigid boats. It uses Safran’s Geonyx and VersaSync inertial navigation and time/frequency server systems. Development was performed in conjunction with Fuscolab, the innovation laboratory of the French Navy commando force. In a written statement provided to Armada, Safran said Navkite can also be used for land applications and has low power consumption.

by Dr. Thomas Withington