Senate takes aim at Navy’s new jammer


The Senate Armed Services Committee is taking aim at the Navy’s premier aerial jamming platform that is meant to play a big role in future conflicts against technologically sophisticated adversaries.

In the committee’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act, Congress is requiring a report be delivered in July 2021 on a strategy for how the Next Generation Jammer will help ensure full spectrum electromagnetic superiority.

The committee passed the bill last week and released a summary, but full text of the measure was made public just this week.

The Next Generation Jammer is the Navy’s and, by extension, the joint force’s premier aerial electronic attack platform. It will replace the ALQ-99 jamming pod and has been broken up into three pods covering three portions of the electromagnetic spectrum: mid, low and high.

A Next Generation Jammer mid-band pod (Liz Wolter/Navy).

The pods will be outfitted to EA-18G Growler aircraft. The Navy awarded the mid-band pod to Raytheon in 2016. Bids for the low-band pod are currently out with Northrop Grumman and L3 Technologies selected to conduct a demonstration of existing systems. The timeline and funding for a high-band post is unclear at this time.

The panel’s provision requires a description of the current procurement strategy; analysis of the capability to meet frequency ranges identified in the National Defense Strategy; an assessment of the pod’s compatibility and ability to synchronize non-kinetic effects using other joint electronic warfare platforms; and a future model of interdependent electronic warfare options for tactical, operational and strategic commanders.

In an annual report, the GAO found several issues associated with the Navy's Next Generation Jammer-Mid Band pod related to technology maturity and software. (Staff Sgt. James Richardson/Air Force)

Changing of the guard

The Senate panel is also requiring the Department of Defense to transfer responsibilities of the electromagnetic spectrum from the commander of Strategic Command to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

These responsibilities include advocacy for joint electronic warfare capabilities, providing contingency electronic warfare support to other combatant commands, and supporting combatant command joint training and planning related to electromagnetic spectrum operations.

The bill also requires the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to become the senior designated official for electronic warfare. The individual would be required to, among other things, oversee the implementation of the electromagnetic spectrum superiority strategy, manage the Joint Electronic Warfare Center, and oversee acquisition activities of the services as they relate to the electromagnetic spectrum as well as tactics.

The current vice chairman, Gen. John Hyten, was most recently the commander of Strategic Command.

Spectrum superiority has become a priority for the DoD in recent years, especially with peer adversaries such as Russia able to cripple forces by jamming communications and geolocate units based solely on their electromagnetic footprint.

The Electromagnetic Spectrum Cross Functional Team, which Congress created in last year’s policy bill, is slated to deliver its superiority report this summer.





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