A pod designed to be mounted on a U.S. Navy fighter aircraft that will jam signals coming from the enemy was designed and developed at the Raytheon Intelligence & Space facility in Fort Wayne.
The Next Generation Jammer Mid-Band, or NGJ-MB, was successfully tested on its first mission systems flight on a Navy EA-18G Growler at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, on Aug.7.
U.S. Navy Capt. Michael Orr, NGJ-MB program manager, described that first test flight. “This is a huge deal,” he said. “This was the first time that we flew this pod.”
Orr, a former pilot, reiterated how exciting it was to see a project come to fruition that has been in the works for 10 years. “It starts out as a PowerPoint,” he said. Raytheon got the contract in 2016, and the pods are still in a testing phase. “We have about another two years until we release this to the fleet.”
Part of the thrill is being aware of the “hundreds and thousands of people that have worked on that project over the last decade and are still working on it,” Orr said. Government employees, industry, Raytheon and government suppliers all played a role.
“Indiana ... has a huge history of supporting our overall mission, which is Airborne Electronic Attack,” Orr said.
After that first flight, “when they landed the air crew looked at me and said, ‘sir, we didn’t even know it was there,’” Orr said.
The NGJ-MB was designed at multiple locations, with significant activities at Fort Wayne, primarily centered on computing capabilities processing. The team included around 55 people.
Dan Theisen, Raytheon director for Airborne Electronic Attack, mentioned a few key people from the Raytheon facility in Fort Wayne, including Chris Keefer, Paul Richwine, Randy Mettert and Tom Broski.
The NGJ system will ultimately replace the ALQ-99 tactical jamming system currently used on the EA-18G Growler.
As Orr explained it, the Navy EA-18G Growler aircraft with the NGJ-MB pods will be deployed to countries that have a robust defense system. While the Navy is trying to execute its mission “our enemies are on the ground trying to shoot us down.”
“We try to control the electromagnetic spectrum,” he said, ultimately so the enemy won’t see them coming and shoot them down. “We stop the enemy from doing that,” he said. “We call it a jammer because at the end of the day you jam signals.
“We protect the lives of our airborne warfighters by ensuring the enemy cannot find them.”
Plans are for 135 sets to be made.
But shouldn’t a device designed to jam enemy signals be kept quiet?
“We routinely do public relations ... and news events when we have programmatic milestones,” Orr said. “They represent the culmination of a lot of work from around the country. When we reach these great milestones we advertise them.”