December Spectrum SitRep

EW Equipment
A recent agreement concluded between Infozahyst and SPX CommTech will ensure that electronic warfare systems provided by the latter company can be maintained in the Ukrainian theatre of operations. Likewise, the agreement covers the provision of local training the systems’ operators.

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

Local Knowledge

Infozahyst has announced a technical cooperation agreement with SPX CommTech. A press release revealing the news said the agreement would cover “the delivery of specialised technologies within the RF (Radio Frequency) spectrum, adapted to battlefield requirements.” Infozahyst will provide diagnostic, repair and care services for equipment supplied by SPX CommTech. The former will also supervise operator instruction for members of the Ukrainian military using the latter’s equipment. Beyond support and training, Infozahyst will ensure that SPX CommTech’s equipment is integrated with other systems used by the Ukrainian military. Localising the care, support and training of the equipment will help ensure that these are more responsive to the demands of Ukraine’s armed forces. The agreement will also enable equipment and personnel to remain in theatre for maintenance, repair and overhaul, and training. Sources familiar with the agreement told Armada that the depth of the cooperation between both companies could grow beyond this collaboration in the future.

Expanding Horizons

Horizon Technologies has been awarded a $1.5 million grant by the UK Space Agency as part of the country’s wider Amber Phoenix programme. Amber Phoenix is working to provide the UK with a constellation of Radio Frequency (RF) sensing satellites. The award was made following the failure of Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket on 9th January. LauncherOne was an air-launched rocket capable of lofting satellites into space. Horizon Technologies had an RF sensing payload equipping Amber IOD-3 (also known as Amber-1); one of the nine satellites being taken into space by LauncherOne. Another attempt to place one of the company’s RF sensing payloads into space can now be made because of the grant. Reports state that the UK Space Agency plans to use space-based RF sensing payloads to help detect suspect vessels at sea. Maritime radio signals will be useful to aid the tracking of illegal fishing, smuggling and other potentially criminal activity on the high seas. Proposals are afoot, according to the Space Agency, to eventually have a constellation of 20 satellites supporting this mission.

John Beckner, Horizon Technologies’ chief executive officer, told Armada that the new Amber satellite will have solar panels to continuously power its RF sensing payload, providing an “always on” capability: “You have to be always on as you don’t know where the targets are,” Mr. Beckner continued. Regarding signals of interest, the satellites will geolocate emissions from maritime Automatic Identification Systems (AISs). Vessel AIS transponders use frequencies of 161.975 megahertz/MHz and 162.025MHz. L-band satellite phone signals (1.5 gigahertz/GHz to 1.6GHz) can also be geolocated. Meanwhile, signals from marine S-band (2.3GHz to 2.5GHz/2.7GHz to 3.7GHz) and X-band (8.5GHz to 10.68GHz) radars will be geolocated by the payload. When a signal of interest is detected, its coordinates will be shared with satellite imagery providers. This lets users correlate the signal of interest with a visual picture of its source. Mr. Beckner says plans are afoot to augment the constellation with Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) to improve imagery collection. SAR has the attraction of being unimpeded by rain, snow, dust or smoke. These atmospheric contaminants can potentially obscure signal sources from imagery gathering.

Infrared Moves Ahead

Northrop Grumman has unveiled the company’s new Advanced Tactical Hostile Engagement Awareness (ATHENA) system. The company refers to ATHENA as a next-generation missile warning sensor which is “always on and keeping an eye out for threats,” according to a company press release. Dennis Neel, ATHENA’s programme director at Northrop Grumman, told Armada that this optical sensor detects infrared threats. These threats can include shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles. Mr. Neel said that ATHENA can “replace existing missile warning sensors” as it is “similar in weight and power to them (but) offers greater resolution and processing power in the sensor itself.” He continued that ATHENA’s platform-agnostic design makes it suitable for use with other self-protection systems like the company’s Common Infra-Red Countermeasure. According to Northrop Grumman, it is under an engineering manufacturing and development contract to supply ATHENA to the US Air Force. No details were given regarding the platforms the missile warning sensor will equip or when deliveries may commence. Nonetheless, Mr. Neel added that ATHENA was “meeting demanding internal benchmarks … and it continues to mature rapidly.”

ATHENA
Northrop Grumman’s new ATHENA infrared missile warning sensor is platform agnostic and can work with a plethora of aircraft self-protection systems.

by Dr. Thomas Withington