AN/ALQ-249(V)2 Next Generation Jammer Low Band (NGJ-LB)
Next Generation Jammer (NGJ), an external jamming pod, is an evolutionary acquisition program providing capability in three increments: Mid-Band [2GHz to 6GHz], Low Band [100MHz to 2GHz] and High Band [6GHz to 18GHz]. Next Generation Jammer Low Band (NGJ-LB) is an external carriage Airborne Electronic Attack capability for the EA-18G Growler that is currently in the Materiel Solutions Analysis phase executing two Demonstration of Existing Technologies contracts. The program will enter the next phase of acquisition when the Capability Block 1 contract is awarded fall 2020. NGJ-LB will utilize the latest digital and software-based technologies that will address advanced and emerging threats in the lower frequency bands of the electromagnetic spectrum. The NGJ-LB program is a joint program collaboration between the U.S. Department of Defense and the Australian Ministry of Defence.
The EA-18G aircraft is a carrier-based aircraft that performs full-spectrum electronic surveillance and electronic attacks against enemy threat radar and communications networks. The EA-18G currently utilizes the ALQ-99 tactical jamming system, which provides very low, low, medium, and high radio frequency band radar and communication jamming capability for the aircraft. The ALQ-99 jamming system consists of pods that can be carried at various stations under the wing and under the centerline station of the aircraft, also known as weapon station 6.
The Navy issued the BAA on November 16, 2017, for the award of one or more contracts to develop a prototype low band jammer to replace the aging ALQ-99 low band jammer currently used on the EA-18G aircraft and enhance the performance provided by the jamming system. The proposed low band jammer, like the current ALQ-99 jammer, will be housed in a pod attached at weapon station 6 on the underbelly of the EA-18G aircraft. Raytheon currently had a contract with the Navy to produce a mid band jammer that replaces the current ALQ-99 mid band jammer, and which will be housed in a pod under each wing of the EA-18G aircraft.
The BAA explained that the agency was seeking to increase its knowledge and understanding of existing technologies supporting a low band jammer where "significant size, weight, power and cooling  constraints exist.” The BAA further stated, that the objectives were to: (1) demonstrate a low band transmitter within the constraints of size, weight, power, and cooling of a pod concept that fits on station 6 of the EA-18G aircraft; and (2) assess performance in such areas as frequency coverage, effective isotropic radiated power (EIRP) the measure of the efficiency of a transmitting antenna. [2) spatial coverage, spectral purity, and polarization.
The BAA stated that contract award would be based on consideration of technical merit and "importance to the NGJ Low Band mission.” With respect to the latter evaluation factor, the BAA stated that proposals would be evaluated for the potential to contribute a mature low band technology solution to the Navy’s airborne electronic attack mission in accordance with stated performance goals. Offerors were required to propose a low band pod that did not exceed the maximum volume for station 6 of the EA-18G aircraft and would not create aircraft inlet distortion. With respect to weight, the BAA stated that "[the low band jammer system] shall weigh less than or equal to TBD [to be determined].” In addition, the BAA required the proposed jammer system to meet EIRP requirements for specific frequencies throughout a range of speeds and altitudes. The BAA also required offerors to demonstrate that their proposed pod installed on an EA-18G aircraft would meet a mission radius threshold of at least 370 nautical miles (NM).
The Navy received multiple proposals, including one from Raytheon. The Navy’s evaluation board assessed Raytheon’s proposal under the two non-cost evaluation factors and assigned "pros” and "cons” under both factors. The evaluation board concluded that while Raytheon’s proposal had technical merit, the proposal demonstrated limited potential with respect to the importance to NGJ low band mission factor. Under the importance to NGJ low band mission factor, the evaluators assigned seven "pros” and ten "cons” to Raytheon’s proposal. The evaluation board stated that its primary concerns were related to "cons” concerning size, drag, EIRP, and weight.
With respect to size, the evaluators assigned a "con” to Raytheon’s proposal because Raytheon’s proposed pod exceeded the size limitations for station 6 of the EA-18G. The evaluators concluded that the larger size increased the risk that the pod concept would not obtain a flight clearance and thus require redesign of the pod structure and power generation systems. The evaluators further concluded that the redesign would decrease power generation, and increase the time for the low band jammer to achieve operational capability. The evaluators also assigned a "con” to Raytheon’s proposal because the size of the proposed pod would significantly increase drag during jamming operations as compared to the ALQ-99 jammer pod. The evaluators concluded that the increased drag would further reduce EA-18G flight performance and decrease mission radius.
The evaluators assigned five "cons” with respect to EIRP. The evaluators assigned one "con” related to the ability of Raytheon’s proposed jammer to meet the EIRP performance goals for multiple, simultaneous assignments. More specifically, the evaluators concluded that the installed, multiple assignment EIRP performance for Raytheon’s pod only meets EIRP goals of the primary and extended fields of regard at most frequencies. The evaluators assigned another "con” because the uninstalled, multiple assignment EIRP performance for Raytheon’s pod does not meet the EIRP goal for the operational frequency band.
The evaluators assigned two "cons” related to the weight of Raytheon’s proposed pod. The agency assigned a "con” because the evaluators concluded that this proposed weight reduction plan could result in weight growth. The evaluators concluded that the plan appeared optimistic based on the substantiation Raytheon provided with its proposal. The evaluators expressed concern that failure to achieve this weight reduction would cause the pod’s overall weight to increase and reduce the aircraft’s flight performance and mission radius.
The evaluation board concluded that the limited performance for EIRP, the risk of obtaining flight clearance because of the pod size, and adverse impacts from potential weight growth and drag outweighed any positive aspects of Raytheon’s proposal. Based on these concerns, the evaluation board recommended that the Navy not award a contract to Raytheon. The source selection authority agreed with the evaluation board’s recommendation.
After Raytheon was notified of the Navy’s decision, Raytheon protested to GAO. Raytheon challenged the Navy’s criticisms of its proposed low band jammer with respect to size, drag, EIRP, and weight. GAO reviewed all of Raytheon’s arguments and found no basis to sustain the protest.
Raytheon contended that the Navy’s concerns about the size of its proposed low band jammer pod were unwarranted and unreasonably exaggerated. Raytheon admited that its low band jammer pod "slightly exceeds” the EA-18G station 6 outer mold line maximum store volume, but contends that the agency’s concerns about the pod exceeding the designated size were arbitrary and excessive. In this regard, Raytheon argues the evaluators unreasonably assigned risk for its pod size without considering the fact that a 480-gallon fuel tank has already received flight clearance at station 6 despite the fact it exceeds the EA-18G outer mold line store volume. Raytheon also argued that the Navy unreasonably overstated the risk of engine inlet distortion resulting from exceeding the station 6 size limitation.
The Navy stated that it reasonably assessed risk to Raytheon’s proposed pod because it exceeded the maximum volume, contrary to the limitation identified in the BAA. In this regard, the Navy noted that the goals document stated that the pod "shall not exceed the EA-18G Station 6 maximum store volume.” The Navy explained that its identification of risks reflects those identified by the manufacturer of the EA-18G in defining the constraints imposed on the station 6 volume. The Navy stated that although Raytheon compared its pod to the fuel tank, the amount by which Raytheon’s pod exceeds the station 6 volume limit is greater than that of the fuel tank. The agency also stated that the evaluators acknowledged that Raytheon’s pod exceeded the limit by a small amount but nonetheless concluded that the exceedance could result in pod damage or impact to the aircraft launch shuttle. Finally, the Navy stated that the flight clearance for the fuel tank does not guarantee a flight clearance for Raytheon’s pod.
Raytheon contends that the Navy improperly assigned a "con” to its proposal based on the evaluators’ concerns about increased drag created by the larger cross-section of Raytheon’s pod during jamming operations. Raytheon argues that because the BAA did not include a goal or requirement concerning drag and did not suggest that the agency was seeking to maintain or increase the amount of drag currently created by the ALQ-99 pod, the Navy applied an unstated evaluation criterion. Raytheon stated that the only specification that pertains to drag in the BAA is the threshold requirement that the aircraft be able to achieve a mission radius of at least 370 NM. The Navy stated that it reasonably assigned a "con” to Raytheon’s proposal because drag is reasonably related to the size of the low band pod and to mission radius. The drag of the pod when installed on the EA-18G aircraft will influence mission radius and maximum speed, and thus will impact overall aircraft performance.
Raytheon contends that the agency misevaluated its proposal with respect to installed and uninstalled EIRP, and applied an unstated evaluation criterion in considering uninstalled EIRP. With respect to the installed EIRP, Raytheon contends that the Navy misread its proposal to mean that it will not meet established goals [DELETED] percent of the time. Raytheon stated that its proposal plainly demonstrates that its projected [DELETED] EIRP ([DELETED] percentile) performance will exceed the Navy’s goals at all frequencies in the primary field of regard (front and aft areas), except for a slight deviation [DELETED]. Raytheon also stated that its proposal explained that its proposed EIRP exceeded the goals for at least [DELETED] percent of the jamming directions in the primary field of regard at frequencies above [DELETED], and for [DELETED] percent of the primary field of regard at [DELETED] low band frequencies.
The Navy states that its evaluators reasonably determined that Raytheon’s pod did not meet the threshold EIRP across the full frequency range for varying amounts of the primary and extended (side) fields of regard, which would have a negative impact on the low band pod mission and therefore warranted a "con.” According to the agency, it conducted threat and mission analysis to determine the amount of EIRP needed to counter modern radar and communication systems threats. The analysis showed that the threats are not located at one point but are spread out geographically relative to the aircraft making EIRP over the full field of regard critical. The analysis was used to formulate the EIRP, operating frequencies, primary field of regard and extended field of regard goals for the BAA.
Raytheon challenged both of the "cons” assessed to its proposal concerning the weight of its proposed pod. Raytheon stated that its plan to reduce the weight was based on standard engineering practice and is "much the same way” Raytheon was undertaking weight reduction for similar components for the mid band jammer pod. Raytheon argued that the Navy should have looked at information from the mid band jammer program to confirm Raytheon’s ability to reduce the weight. The Navy states that it reasonably assigned a "con” for weight growth because Raytheon did not provide sufficient documentation for the evaluators to assess Raytheon’s large weight reduction claims. The Navy stated that, instead of providing sufficient information, Raytheon simply referred to "similar processes.” The Navy also stated that the low band structures are a different design from the mid band and therefore, even if similar weight reduction processes were used, the process would not have the same impact on weight.
The U.S. Navy awarded a $496 million Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) contract to L3Harris Technologies on 18 December 2020 to further the Next Generation Jammer Low Band (NGJ-LB) capability. The contract supports the final design efforts and manufacturing of eight operational prototype pods and four test pods that will be used for various levels of testing and fleet employment to include airworthiness, functionality, and integration with and carriage on the EA-18G Growler host aircraft.
The contract award announcement from Airborne Electronic Attack (AEA) Program Office (PMA-234), the managing office for product acquisition, comes directly on the heels of NGJ-LB entering the EMD acquisition phase, often referred to as Milestone B (MS B). “I’m proud of the hard work and determination of the Navy and industry team,” said James Geurts, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition. “The teams work to reduce development risk, inform technology realities, and speed capabilities to the fleet was impressive. The efforts by all those involved enabled the Navy to move forward in a rapid manner to bring this new critical capability to bear for our warfighters, saving years in operational development.”
Geurts signed the MS B Acquisition Decision Memorandum Dec. 8, signifying his satisfaction with NGJ-LB’s proposed cost, schedule and performance intentions. The program embarked on a Demonstration of Existing Technologies in late 2018, which informed technical maturity of capabilities. Originally the program was approved as a Middle Tier Acquisition Program due to the need for speed to fleet, but changes in policy mandated that the Navy rapidly move the program to a Major Defense Acquisition Program. “The program did a great job of overcoming all the obstacles that this transition laid in front of them,” said Geurts. “Really a herculean effort that I’m honestly proud to have been part of.”
“NGJ-LB is the next step in the evolution of Airborne Electronic Attack that is needed to meet current and emerging electronic warfare gaps,” said Rear Adm. Shane Gahagan, Program Executive Officer, Tactical Aircraft Programs. “The increased jamming capability that NGJ-LB brings to the warfighter is critical to sustaining the future missions of the Navy and other services.”
NGJ-LB is an external jamming pod that will address advanced and emerging threats using the latest digital, software-based array technologies and will provide enhanced AEA capabilities to disrupt, deny and degrade enemy air defense and ground communication systems. “Our AEA arsenal continues to expand with the NGJ-LB capability,” said Capt. Michael Orr, PMA-234 program manager. “With the NGJ-LB EMD contract award, we continue our focus on delivering the warfighter an unsurpassed capability.”
NGJ-LB is part of a larger NGJ weapon system that will augment, and ultimately replace the legacy ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming System pods in the low frequency spectrum currently used on the Growler. The weapons system is a joint program initiative with Australia.
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