Let’s Talk About The F-16’s Next-Generation Electronic Warfare Suite

F-16 EW

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F-16 EW
File photograph of a U.S. Air Power F-16 with Have Glass V coating in the course of the train Falcon Strike 2022. (Picture: Stefano D’Urso/The Aviationist)

The AN/ALQ-257 Built-in Viper Digital Warfare Suite is about to switch the legacy EW techniques of the U.S. Air Power F-16 fleet.

The U.S. Air Power and Northrop Grumman are working collectively to modernize the digital warfare capabilities of the F-16 fleet, as a part of the deliberate Put up Block Integration Staff (PoBIT) upgrades. IVEWS supplies a subsequent technology EW system that’s inside to the F-16 and interoperable with the brand new on-board APG-83 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar.

This system which resulted within the creation of the AN/ALQ-257 began in 2019. After creating an IVEWS environmentally and security of flight licensed prototype following a primary contract in 2021, final 12 months Northrop Grumman was contracted to complete the development and set up the system on a number of F-16s for flight testing. In April, the corporate introduced that IVEWS has accomplished U.S. Air Power Laboratory Intelligence Validated Emulator (LIVE) testing.

“As superior radio frequency threats proceed to proliferate, the safety afforded by IVEWS is crucial,” mentioned James Conroy, vp, navigation, focusing on and survivability, Northrop Grumman. “This profitable analysis beneath very difficult situations is a crucial step on the trail to fielding the suite.”

In accordance with the press launch, the system exceeded a number of benchmarks and demonstrated the flexibility to counter fashionable radio frequency (RF) threats. This was the primary time the ultra-wideband structure of the AN/ALQ-257 IVEWS underwent LIVE testing. LIVE is an intelligence validated, closed-loop RF direct-injection menace radar emulator primarily based on menace capabilities and options, which permits for the testing digital warfare techniques in life like environments.

Through the take a look at, simulated air protection radar pulses had been injected straight into IVEWS to confirm the suite’s skill to acknowledge and counter superior threats. The indicators utilized in LIVE testing are validated fashions that present realistic representations of radio frequency threatsc. This rigorous testing program is critical to make sure that IVEWS might be prepared to guard the fourth-generation fighter fleet in opposition to the proliferation of superior radio frequency threats.

In August 2021, a Northrop Grumman take a look at mattress plane flew with the corporate’s F-16 IVEWS and APG-83 SABR techniques in a dense electromagnetic spectrum surroundings on the Northern Lightning joint coaching train. (Picture: Northrop Grumman)

“This contract and general program effort is significant to extend the safety of our F-16 operators as they execute their missions in contested environments,” mentioned final 12 months Maj. Charles Prichard, Chief of Digital Warfare Integration inside the directorate’s F-16 System Program Workplace. “To ensure that the F-16 Viper to fulfill assigned mission units in step with the CSAF’s Fighter Roadmap and function in sure environments, the fleet wants a complicated digital warfare (EW) system. IVEWS strains up with HAF/ACC’s EW plan and just lately grew to become the answer that improves the F-16’s survivability and lethality in opposition to present and rising threats.”

IVEWS is totally digital and based on safe, modular, open systems design principles, with the receiver/exciter structure offering important benefits over heritage techniques. This know-how, in response to Northrop Grumman, permits for prolonged frequency protection, full spatial protection, and extra fast responses, permitting operations in contested environments.

That includes extremely environment friendly broadband energy amplifiers and adaptive countermeasure modulations, the AN/ALQ-257 is designed to detect, determine, find, and defeat subsequent technology sensors and weapons. It’s designed to Open Missions Programs necessities and provisioned for long-term progress functionality to assist future upgrades such because the Fiber Optic Tow Decoy, Adaptive/Cognitive Processing, and Open System Structure compliance.

Mr. Conroy supplied us extra particulars in an emailed assertion and confirmed that IVEWS is an entire EW suite, together with an integrated digital radar warning receiver (RWR). Though IVEWS makes use of present antenna areas, the system additionally makes use of next-generation antennas to offer the notice required for operation in superior menace environments.

IVEWS and its superior structure are additionally totally interoperable with Energetic Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars, together with the AN/APG-83 SABR which is being put in on the F-16s of the US Air Power fleet. In actual fact, IVEWS demonstrated real-time integration with the APG-83 radar throughout rigorous testing in dense electromagnetic spectrum environments in opposition to ground-based and airborne emitters.

Northrop Grumman’s AN/APG-83 radar being put in in an Air Nationwide Guard F-16 at McEntire Joint Nationwide Guard Base, S.C. (U.S. Air Power photograph/launched)

The corporate used one in every of their flying testbeds, a CRJ-700 equipped with IVEWS and a SABR radar inside an F-16’s nosecone, throughout Train Northern Lightning in 2021. The 2 techniques demonstrated full pulse-to-pulse, multi-function interoperability in a contested operational surroundings. With SABR efficiently participating a number of air and floor targets, IVEWS detected and recognized a spread of superior threats, using superior jamming strategies able to defeating these threats when required.

Avoiding legacy strategies of radio frequency compatibility ensures that each techniques are capable of concurrently function with out restriction to ship superior ranges of survivability with out compromising efficiency. In actual fact, one of the crucial points of EW techniques’ and AESA radars’ testing is to evaluate that they’re interoperable with out producing important interferences.

The ALQ-257 IVEWS is a completely internal electronic warfare suite, incorporating all Digital Warfare performance, together with jamming of present and future threats. Because of this it incorporates all capabilities beforehand carried out by the ECM pods, liberating the F-16’s centerline station from the ALQ-131 and ALQ-184 pods and permitting it for use for the 300 gal exterior gasoline tank or different payloads.

IVEWS is at the moment a program of document digital warfare suite for the U.S. Air Power F-16 fleet. The system can be exportable for present and former generations of the F-16. Northrop Grumman is continuous to develop IVEWS in preparation for extra testing and integration on an precise plane, with the primary F-16 flight anticipated in 2023.

The manufacturing and fielding of IVEWS, with the purpose of equipping as many as 450 F-16s, is predicted to start in 2024. Nevertheless, though Col. Tim Bailey, F-16 System Program Supervisor, mentioned final 12 months that IVEWS is a ‘will need to have,’ prime precedence program to maintain the Viper related and deadly all through its prolonged service life, there are some reviews that the Air Power might shift funding away from modernization of the F-16 to prioritize next-generation plane.

Till the service takes a closing choice, Northrop Grumman is continuous with the event program, with the purpose of getting the following gen EW system prepared for fielding as per contract schedule.

Stefano D’Urso is a contract journalist and contributor to TheAviationist primarily based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he is additionally learning to realize a Grasp Diploma in Aerospace Engineering. Digital Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT strategies utilized to the world of army operations and present conflicts are amongst his areas of experience.



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