Armada’s monthly round-up of all the latest electronic warfare news in the product, programme and operational domains.
SPEAR hits the target
This year’s Paris Air Show, held in the city between 19th and 25th June, had its fair share of Electronic Warfare (EW) news. Officials from Elbit Systems briefed Armada on the company’s new Nano SPEAR air-launched expendable Electronic Countermeasure (ECM). Expendable, air-launched ECMs are very much ‘on trend’. Leonardo has developed its BriteCloud family and MBDA is working on the EW variant of its Selectable Precision Effects At Range munition, better known as SPEAR-EW. All these developments are arguably indicative of the air defence threat renaissance exemplified by Russia’s S-400 (NATO reporting name SA-21 Growler) long-range, high-altitude surface-to-air missile system. Nano SPEAR incorporates architectures developed for Elbit’s SPEAR family of ECMs, the company said. MBDA and Elbit’s SPEAR products are unrelated. Nano SPEAR is designed to jam radio frequency threats. While the company would not disclose the frequencies the ECM can jam, this is likely to be X-band (8.5 gigahertz/GHz to 10.68GHz) frequencies and above. These frequencies are routinely used by fire control and missile guidance radars. Nano SPEAR can engage such threats tactically for aircraft protection. The ECM has the same design as a standard 25.4mm x 50.8mm x 203.2mm expendable countermeasures cartridge. As such, it can easily equip a raft of aircraft countermeasure dispensing systems. Elbit officials continued that Nano SPEAR’s development is nearing completion and that it will be ready for delivery from 2024. The officials added that Elbit already has customers for the ECM but declined to disclose their identity.
Elsewhere at this year’s Paris Air Show, officials from Aselsan detailed enhancements to the company’s Koral Electronic Support Measure (ESM). Koral is a ground-based ESM for use by land forces at tactical and operational levels. The ESM has been in service with the Türk Kara Kuvvetleri (TKK/Turkish Land Forces) for several years. Reports emerged in 2019 that the system was deployed with TKK electronic warfare units during combat operations against Kurdish insurgents in northern Syria. Aselsan officials told Armada that Koral’s waveband has been increased below and above two gigahertz/GHz to 18GHz. While not elaborating on specific frequencies it seems likely that this now encompasses signals of interest from circa 500 megahertz/MHz up to 40GHz. Customers can opt for single systems covering this entire waveband, or alternatively several Koral ESMs each of which can cover a waveband segment. The latter maybe more practical for electronic warfare cadres chiefly concerned with gathering communications intelligence on radios used by land forces. Another significant change is that the Koral architecture is now available mounted on a semi-trailer. Aselsan said that this was done in answer to a TKK requirement for a system which could be deployed at a specific location while freeing up trucks to then move other systems to other locations. Deliveries of these trailer-mounted systems to the TKK have commenced. These will supplement the truck-mounted systems the army already uses. No details were provided on how many of these new ESMs are being delivered. Aselsan officials did say that the army is looking to procure a significant number to ensure adequate coverage across Turkey’s border areas.
Hawkeye goes higher
HawkEye 360’s new Cluster-7 constellation of radio frequency sensing satellites are now operational, the company revealed in a press release published in early June. This follows the launch of the satellites on 15th April this year. The trio of spacecraft in Cluster-7 possess whip antennas providing signal detection across a waveband of 270 megahertz/MHz to 330MHz. The addition of the new satellites takes the total HawkEye 360 constellation to 21 spacecraft. The company added in the press release that it now has an hourly revisit rate for targets. Adam Bennett, HawkEye 360’s vice president of marketing, told Armada that the 270MHz to 330MHz waveband lets the company “collect more data in regions of interest and provide better situational awareness for our clients.” Future satellite launches are planned by the company. Mr. Bennett said that Cluster-8 and Cluster-9 are both expected to be launched on the same rocket before the end of the year. Rocket Lab is providing the launch vehicle, which will be sent aloft from their facilities on the Māhia Peninsula on the east coast of New Zealand’s north island.
by Dr. Thomas Withington