Four contractors will compete for a $200 million US Air Force programme to develop and produce an electronic attack (EA) pod that will be installed on unmanned aircraft systems and manned aircraft.
The EA pod would be installed first on any of 24 Block 5 versions of the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-9 Reaper UAS, which are upgraded with more power compared to Block 1 aircraft, the Air Force revealed in acquisition documents released in early May.
The pod is the first unclassified investment by the air force in EA technology since the cancellation of the Boeing B-52 standoff jamming system in 2005. After an attempt to revive a scaled-down version of the radar jammer failed, the air force in 2009 launched a technically less ambitious EA pod focused on attacking the communication and network systems used by insurgents. Such a pod would be used to jam improvised explosive devices (IEDs) or low-band communications signals, including mobile phones.
The pod also will be considered for carriage on other platforms including the A-10 and Lockheed Martin C-130, the documents show. The C-130 is the platform for the air force’s primary communication jamming system – the Compass Call fleet. Arming the A-10 with an electronic attack capability would be a first for the close air support and ground attack fighter, and would likely be used in counter-IED roles.
The USAF has designed the EA pod programme to develop an operational system as quickly as possible. The technology maturity phase began last November. At least three companies – BAE Systems, ITT and Raytheon – received small contracts to start designing technologies required for a flyable pod.
In July, the air force plans to award follow-on technology development contracts to up to four companies leading to an engineering and manufacturing development phase in 2013.
Source: Flight Global