Like a prizefighter needing a sparring partner between bouts, next-generation fighter aircraft and their operators require constant testing and training. They simply cannot wait until they face a real air-to-air engagement to find out if critical self-defense systems actually work. This is especially true for the many advanced electronic warfare systems being installed on the latest aircraft. Accurate simulation is the only way to provide that much-needed sparring partner.
The U.S. Navy’s EW Simulator Development program fills this requirement. The program develops simulation facilities and techniques for use in evaluating the effectiveness of EW systems in real-world engagements. The program will receive steady levels of funding in the next few years to ensure that the EW systems on EA-18G Growler and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft, among others, provide protection from both current and future threats.
Highlighting the importance of this effort, the new year saw a major funding boost. From a budget of $3.4 million in FY17, program funding was bumped up to $76.8 million in FY18. In large part, the increase supports upgrades to the Naval Air Warfare Center land and sea ranges to close capability gaps identified during the operational test planning for the JSF.
Current and emerging EW programs that benefit from the EW Simulator Development effort include the ALR-67 radar warning receiver, the ALQ-214 Integrated Defensive Electronic Countermeasures suite, and the Next Generation Jammer, among many others.
Based on an estimated projection of the FY18 U.S. defense budget, $415 million will likely be spent on this program through 2027.