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Navy Upgrades Ship-Based Electronic Warfare


The Navy is upgrading its suite of electronic warfare technology currently on surface ships across the fleet in order to keep pace with emerging threats, service officials said.

The Navy has configured an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, the USS Bainbridge, with what’s called Block 2 of its SLQ-32 Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program, or SEWIP – a suite of upgraded electronic warfare sensors able to detect a wider range of threat signals than the existing system.

Block 2 SEWIP is an upgraded version of the existing AN/SLQ-32 electronic warfare system designed to provide early detection, signal analysis and threat warnings against anti-ship missiles and other threats, Navy officials said.

Ship-based electronic warfare is designed to detect electromagnetic signals from potential adversaries and provide counter-targeting and counter-surveillance technology. For example, the receiver, antenna and software built into the SEWIP system would help detect the presence of an incoming enemy missile, enemy radar or radio activity, and aircraft or a surface vessel.

The USS Bainbridge is currently involved in operational testing as the Navy acquires its first 24 Block 2 SEWIP units. The technology is being produced by Lockheed Martin in a deal that could be worth up to $147 million, said Joe Ottaviano, SEWIP program director, Lockheed Martin.

“SEWIP is the Navy’s continued push to keep electronic warfare excellence ahead of the threat. It is an incremental set of upgrades to the SLQ-32 which was designed in the late 70s and deployed in the 80s. It gives the Navy the ability to upgrade and outpace the threat. It provides the ability to quickly upgrade processing as new threats come online and become more complex without overhauling the antenna,” Ottaviano said.

The Block 2 SEWIP advancements include upgrades to the antenna and digital receiver, Ottaviano said. Block 2 upgrades also include the addition of new software engineered to ensure the system is equipped to recognize new, emerging threat signals.

“It provides the digital architecture so it can quickly upgrade and provide additional capability as threats increase in capability,” Ottaviano added.

The Navy plans to configure as many as 140 surface ships with Block 2 SEWIP technology, including carriers, cruisers, destroyers and amphibs, among others.

The hardware to the system consists of above and below deck components including a display screen and processing technology, he added.

The hardware may be configured differently depending upon the structure of a given ship, Ottaviano explained. For example, the EW antenna on the Navy’s new destroyer, the DDG 1000, is conformed to align with the ship’s hull.

Following SEWIP Block 2, the Navy plans to develop and acquire a Block 3 SEWIP electronic attack technology, Navy and Lockheed officials said. In addition to “listening” or passive electromagnetic detection, Block 3 will include the ability to transmit signals and potentially jam or disrupt enemy signals.

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