SEWIP Block III: new horizons for the US Navy's electronic warfare


Concept art for SEWIP Block III.

Tyler Rogoway from The Drive Warzone section gave a very interesting alignment about the latest American inventions in the field of shipborne electronic warfare. It makes a direct sense to familiarize yourself with his calculations, because we know that Americans are good at praising themselves, but in their boasting one can always catch more serious things that are really worth thinking about.

The battle for control of the electromagnetic battlefield is gaining space speed, and the ability to defend warships against many types of threats, from increasingly sophisticated anti-ship missiles to swarms of unmanned aerial vehicles, is becoming more important. The United States Navy is currently on the verge of receiving the most revolutionary update to its electronic warfare capabilities with the Block III AN / SLQ-32 (V) 7 Ground Electronic Warfare Improvement Program, or Block III SEWIP.

This system combines the advanced passive detection capabilities of SEWIP Block II with the capability of active, powerful and highly accurate electronic attacks against multiple targets at once. In addition to its core functionality, Block III can do much more, including serving as a communications hub and even a radar system. Plus, according to the US military, Block III has great modernization potential for many years to come.

Today, the SEWIP Block III concept is being tested, and if the tests are successfully completed, the system promises not only huge defensive, but also offensive capabilities for the US Navy.

SEWIP Block III is being developed by Northrop-Grumman and Tyler Rogoway interviewed Michael Mini, Northrop-Grumman's vice president in charge of SEWIP Block III.

Tyler: Could you tell us a little bit about what block III SEWIP really is and the status of the program?

Mini: SEWIP stands for Ground Electronic Warfare Improvement Program ... And the Navy purchased it in three upgrade blocks.

Block I is some updates to displays and processing systems.
Block II is an electronic support subsystem that is used to monitor the broadcast, determine the location of the emitters and what from among those detected can pose a threat to the ship.
Block III is an electronic attack subsystem. It is non-kinetic weaponthat the ship's captain and crew can use to engage anti-ship missiles and any other radio frequency threats the ship encounters.

The nice thing about non-kinetic weapons is that they don't require the ammo that is usually limited on ships. SEWIP Block III can attack multiple targets at once. This is important, especially when it comes to anti-ship missiles. And you have an unlimited number of "shots" at these missiles.

SEWIP Block II was installed about three years ago on the USS Carney (DDG-64), on the right side, and can now be found on many other US Navy ships. The predecessors of SEWIP Block II were installed on the left side, so you can very easily determine which generation systems are on the ships.

When we started designing the architecture for SEWIP Block III, we introduced several innovations that set SEWIP Block III apart from other systems of a similar nature.

First, we have fully complied with the requirements of the Naval fleet in terms of advanced electronic attack techniques needed not only to deal with today's threats, but also the future threats that we only expect to face. We have adopted an open architecture that allows us to modernize the system and support the implementation of technologies of the future.

We also used a flexible software environment to implement hardware support. This makes it easy to upgrade the system by simply creating system software shell updates.

The result is a system with a multifunctional RF architecture, complex but effective. And that will be the core of SEWIP Block III. Also, the system will use all the advantages of broadband multifunctional active scanning systems AESAs.

The result is a truly multifunctional system that can be used both for electronic reconnaissance and tracking signal sources, as well as for solving some problems in the field of ESM, that is, electronic support measures, which was the main essence of SEWIP Block II.

In addition, the new system is capable of communicating and transmitting communication signals and arrays of information, and not only between ships, but also between completely different platforms. For example, AWACS aircraft or coastal missile systems.

Finally, the system can be used as a radar if necessary. Yes, a conventional radar for monitoring the surrounding space.

We plan to actively use artificial intelligence in the system with the possibility of improvement. This would allow us to quickly identify unknown signals and interfere with them as quickly as possible, while simultaneously introducing new signatures into our signal database for later use.

SEWIP Block III hull photographed during testing in an anechoic chamber

At the end of last year, we also demonstrated a new set of communication subsystems that can be used in our system and which can allow the SEWIP system to connect to other SEWIP systems (older formations) or to connect to other platforms - they can be airborne, they can be space-based ...

And this is a key factor that can be used by the Navy to integrate representatives of other branches of the military into the tasks of the Navy, which is at the same time part of the initiative of the Ministry of Defense, expressed in the JADC2 (Joint Command and Control in All Areas) program.

We're trying to compactly connect sensors, platforms, and capabilities to improve system performance and enable it to evolve for years to come.

So by creating advanced communications waveforms in SEWIP, we not only help the Navy meet their future weapon enhancement needs, but it's also a great way to simply demonstrate the true versatility of what we offer the Navy.

As for further development of the program, this year we delivered our model to the Engineering and Manufacturing Technology Development (EMD) Center on Wallops Island, where ground testing will begin. The Center will conduct IOT & E (Initial Testing and Performance Assessment) using the system we have provided them.

We also have two prototype systems that we are going to install after testing this year on the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers for real testing on the fly.

SEWIP Block III will initially be deployed on Arleigh Burke-class destroyers in the same area where the elements of the SEWIP Block II system are mounted, but in the future the system can be mounted on aircraft carriers and landing ships.

And this is a brief overview of the capabilities of not only our SEWIP Block III system, but also some of our unique aspects that we believe differentiate our approach, as well as some data about our future development of the current program.

Tyler: You mentioned three blocks and the different capabilities they have. Block III adds an active emitter component instead of the passive system for Block II. I noticed that in the past there was an Assistant that was an active jamming system that worked with SEWIP. What does this new active ingredient do? Obviously he can counter certain missiles and other things, but what does he really bring to the fight with his AESA array?

Mini: That's a really good question ... The AESA modules, there are several of them that make up our system. More precisely, there are 16 AESA modules in total, and we have four facing each quadrant of the ship to provide full 360 degree coverage around the ship, and two of them are used for receiving and two of them are used for transmitting.

So we use the AESA modules to pinpoint exactly where the enemy threat is, be it an anti-ship missile or an enemy radar system, or whatever it is, and then using that precise angle and information about where they are and where they come from approaching us, we then use our transmitting antennas to transmit an electronic attack signal to attack the radio frequency system that poses a threat to us.

One of the key benefits of AESA is that you can dynamically tune and focus your RF energy, and so instead of some legacy EW systems that use very wide beams, we intend to create a very narrow but energetically dense beam in space.

(By the way, a similar technique was used in the Russian Krasukha systems. There are both positive and negative aspects in this - approx.)

The EMD system, which is a standard two-element SEWIP Block III module, which will be installed on the bow superstructures of Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.

A sword instead of a club. By knowing where a threat is from our receiving antennas, we can accurately target massive amounts of RF energy to that threat. Since we can move and direct beams with the help of a computer in literally a split second, we can shoot several of these beams and hit several objects at the same time.

In this way, AESA allows you to create these dynamically quickly reconfigurable signal sets, leveraging all the energy you have and directing it directly to the threats we face.

At the same time, the issue of Emissions Control (EMCON) is being addressed, because we do not spray RF energy all over the headspace with very broadband antennas. Therefore, it is more difficult to find out that we are jamming our emitters too. We use radio frequency energy as efficiently as possible, which is why it is so important to control the shape of the beam and precisely direct it only to the objects we are aiming at at the moment.

Tyler: Will the system be able to interface with other existing systems? For example, with false target systems? And I know that SPY-6 and the Enterprise's aerial surveillance radar will soon be deployed ... Will it be a system that mostly stands on its own, or will it be tied to the larger Aegis architecture and or another combat system of the ship?

Mini: Because of the way the Navy designed the system, all of the "soft kill" or non-kinetic capabilities are integrated together, and they have a coordination system that controls all active systems and subsystems that are part of the non-kinetic weapon systems available to the ship's commander ...

Threats will be identified, assigned severity, and those that may be subject to the SEWIP Block III e-attack will be attacked. Of course, our active non-kinetic systems can interact with traps that are launched from the ship to distract anti-ship missiles. These booby traps pretend to be a ship, and by providing the "ship's RF signature" deflect anti-ship missiles aside.

Such, for example, is the trap "Nulka", which is launched from the destroyer class "Arlie Burke".

The Nulka hovers in the air for a period of time and is a more tempting target for radar-guided anti-ship missiles than the attacked ship itself.

There are other non-kinetic possibilities that this system controls. Yes, all of this is integrated into the overall combat system of Aegis. Obviously, with the advent of the SPY-6 in service, the Aegis combat system gains even broader capabilities to combat potential threats.

The system will be even better able to detect targets and launch missiles against them, target specific missiles at specific targets, and more flexibly control its kinetic weapons.

Naturally, this also applies to the non-kinetic weapons included in the Aegis system.

Tyler: Can SEWIP Block III also carry out electronic attacks from the shore? Or, say, another ship? Something that is within line of sight, but perhaps not a traditional threat, something like a ballistic missile?

Mini: I did focus on the anti-ship threat in my comments, but in fact the system was designed from the outset against a broad class of any radio frequency threats that a typical navy ship might face ...

We have a wide range of methods that can be used against different types of threats, you said that other ships, enemy ships, radar systems, coastal radar systems ... that an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer might need to be deployed during its mission that something more ...

Since the system is programmatically defined, we have the ability to create a library of signals from various targets, it is a matter of time and experience, and with the help of this library, the combat system mainly displays and identifies the signal. If you see a threat, all that remains is to use the technique against it. And the only question is how effectively the system will select the equipment in order to suppress, detonate, or in some other way eliminate a potential threat.

Eliminating this specific enemy threat, or depriving opponents of the ability to capture or track our ship, or deceive them and destroy many targets so that they cannot determine exactly where the electronic impact came from - all this is the complex of tasks that we want to help solve the fleet.

And we would like to optimize our combat systems to neutralize the most advanced threats our fleet will face over the next several decades.

Tyler: So one thing I noticed about the system is that it is quite large and I have seen images of it installed on the superstructure of an Arleigh Burke class destroyer. What structural changes would be required to install the system on such a destroyer? What is needed to set it up? And you say there are four separate systems, so I would suggest they should point to all four quadrants?

Mini: Right, so we have pictures of our system, our EDM. And our EDM is one half of the ship and you will see it. We call it a sponson ... Basically, our two module elements are built into the sponson. The Sponson is attached to the side of the Arleigh Burke, and then two Sponsons are attached, one on each side, to ensure full four-piece coverage of the ship.

So, in essence, installing the system on a ship is you attach a sponson with elements to each side of the Arleigh Burke, and then you mount two AESAS elements in each. This is what is required for the installation.

Concept art showing how the system will be mounted on a sponson under the bridge wings on Arlie Burke-class destroyers.

Tyler: And then on the ship, if it goes the route, the system will work autonomously, am I getting it right?

Mini: Yes, actually, I'm glad you brought it up ... One of the most recent actions taken by the government is that they have contracted us to expand our existing SEWIP configuration and create a datasheet for them. which could be used to acquire SEWIP Block III capabilities that could be used on aircraft carriers and large deck ships such as LHD (Airborne Assault Ships).


The task is solved with the help of all the same AESAs modules and elements assembled into larger structures, we just need to adapt to a different configuration existing on these large ships. Therefore, we are making some changes to the same cooling and power management systems, but in general, these are the same modules that are or will be installed on the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. On ships with a large deck, obviously we will need to stretch the wiring and mount these modules in different locations, and this is part of the development work that we are currently doing.

SEWIP Block III may well hit US platforms that are already using earlier versions of SEWIP.

Tyler: The two main things we are always asked about when it comes to EW and naval warfare are: First, the threat of UAS (Unmanned Air System/Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), which is becoming more and more prominent, especially swarms of small drones. They may not be able to sink a ship, but they could do a solid mission and do a lot of damage. I would imagine that SEWIP Block III would be able to withstand these types of attacks? In addition, there is also the threat of anti-ship ballistic missiles. Is this something that also falls within the scope of this new system?

Mini: Yes, so I can't comment on either one specifically, I can keep repeating that we designed and developed this system to counter the most serious threat that the Navy will face over the next several decades.

Tyler: You mentioned that SEWIP Block III can recognize potential unknown threats or try to classify them and then possibly counter them. We would talk a little about functionality. For example, is there an operational ability to analyze new signals in real time to try to counter a threat that might not be in the system's threat library?

Mini: Exactly, exactly. So I called it artificial intelligence and machine learning, it's the same as cognitive electronic warfare ... How we approach our system, and how this relates to several different benefits that cognitive electronic warfare can provide.

The first is the ability to quickly characterize and classify those unknown emitters in the environment. Every EW system developed to date has a library attached to it, and if there is nothing in the library for the estimated RF pulse stream, it should be presented to the operator with the words “This is unknown. I don't know what it is, but there is something here. " And therefore, by adding electronic warfare algorithms to our software, so that operators can more quickly identify things that they would not otherwise be able to characterize or identify.

Electronic warfare is now more important than ever before when it comes to protecting the strike group of aircraft carriers.

This is the first step, and we are working on how to do this for SEWIP as part of the implementation of future technology, and we have a number of different advanced cognitive EW algorithms that we have developed and tested in other areas.
In addition to this, for the electronic attack system, we are also working on how to use cognitive algorithms to create electronic methods on the fly. This is a much more difficult task because you not only need to generate jamming signals that you think will work, but also find ways to electronically estimate combat damage in real time to make sure your signals are effective.

In addition, we are working on protection systems that can hide our emitters from the enemy's view.

This is what we are working on, today it is not yet ready to go, but since we are developing a system based on software with fast updates, this only means that I can see that it will definitely be part of the future capabilities of the system.

Tyler: One last question for you, we've seen real signs of a collaborative system that has room for both electronic warfare and kinetic weapons.

It is a much smarter way of solving a problem in a much broader field, using multiple EW methods and platforms to achieve common goals. Could you tell us a little about the interweaving between other platforms in the electronic warfare space and what the system will be able to provide within this system?

Mini: I could say that this is an unresolved issue, it means that you really understand the essence of these things, and now I will say that I can no longer comment.
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  1. +6
    August 10 2021
    The combined electronic warfare, radar, high-speed communication channel was first used on the F-35 in its AN / APG-81 radar. It looks like Northrop this system was modernized and adapted for the tasks of the fleet.
  2. +4
    August 10 2021
    I like this "multifunctionality"! "3 in 1 bottle"! 1.REB; 2. Radio station; 3.Radar ... Not bad! A very promising direction! There is something "to take note of"! Subject to the sine qua non ... it is highly desirable to have an AFAR!
  3. +5
    August 10 2021
    Thanks for the article, Roman.
    The system is interesting both in terms of architecture and declared capabilities. There are certain doubts about its ability to work as an active radar, in particular, the size of the antennas of this system is embarrassing. True, if there are main radars on ships, including SPY-6, this should not be a problem. The Nulka rocket ship simulator is also of interest. It was developed in the late 90s by the Australian branch of BAE Systems and has already been equipped with about 150 US ships; Canada and Australia. Recently, plans were announced to modernize this rocket in terms of its electronic filling and a corresponding contract was signed with the well-known American company H3 Harris.
    What else? In addition to the details listed in the article, in this system, as far as I am aware, a low-base system of direction finding of the enemy's emitting systems has been implemented, which makes it possible to determine not only the bearing, but also the coordinates of the emitting systems, which gives a significant advantage over systems using the triangulation method and rather large distances (tens of km ) between direction finders, including radars in which there are direction finding channels. For example, even as part of the old Air 1M system, there was an object VP-15M, which provided the solution of triangulation problems according to the data of direction finding channels of subordinate radars. Small-base DF systems are also not new, and back in the mid-70s in the USSR, a number of research and development projects were carried out on this topic. Whether they were brought to the serial "hardware" I do not know.
    1. +1
      August 10 2021
      Quote: gregor6549
      There are some doubts about her ability to work as an active radar.

      Why? I assume that this system is based on AN / APG-81. Serial product, mass produced.
      By the way, new electronic warfare systems (?) Appeared on the aircraft carriers USS Carl Vinson and USS Abraham Lincoln. What exactly does not apply.
      1. 0
        August 11 2021
        I will not argue about AN / APG-81, but as far as I know, this radar with AFAR was developed for the F35 and optimized for use on these aircraft.
        I could not find any mention of its use as an integral part of naval electronic warfare systems. I would be grateful if you would give a link confirming such an application.
        In addition, the antenna of this radar is even visually larger than those "navels" that are visible in the photographs of the components of the EW system under discussion.
        Perhaps we are talking about the use of a millimeter-wave electronic warfare system in this system for jamming anti-ship missiles, the seeker of which operates in this range and, optionally, for detecting small-sized targets in the near zone (from a couple of hundred meters to several kilometers).
        Here, for the millimeter range, the above "navels" are quite suitable in size
        1. +1
          August 11 2021
          Quote: gregor6549
          I would be grateful if you would give a link confirming such an application.

          Purely my hypothesis. The manufacturer is the same, the functionality is similar.
          Quote: gregor6549
          Perhaps we are talking about the use of a millimeter-wave electronic warfare system in this system for jamming anti-ship missiles, the seeker of which operates in this range and, optionally, for detecting small-sized targets in the near zone (from a couple of hundred meters to several kilometers).

          I agree with this. This range must be overlapped separately.
  4. +1
    August 10 2021
    But what if, in addition to the anti-ship missile system, several satellites for detecting surface targets in real time, capable of transmitting the coordinates of targets to directly flying missiles, were created? The last coordinates of the aircraft carrier are loaded into Zircon, the rocket flies and on approach receives new GLONASS / GPS coordinates from the same satellite, as well as the target course. Zircon himself will estimate the meeting point and reach the finish line at a height of 3-10 meters, without seeing the target at all. The ship will maneuver, of course, but the chances of a meeting will still be great, besides, the Zircon can hurt the escort, and in general the American sailors will all turn gray when even near their ship the Zircon flies to the M8, and it will not fly alone ... With such Zircon speeds, the movement of the ship does not matter if the ability of Zircon's CPU to quickly respond to new target coordinates is sufficient ... but even with errors there will be at least a probability factor ... how lucky, Zircon will fly into the aircraft carrier at M8 speed or not, but taking into account the ships cover, someone will definitely hook
    1. -1
      August 10 2021
      Quote: Siegfried
      create several satellites for detecting surface targets in real time

      No problem. True, they need several hundred. The earth is round, satellites fly at a breakneck speed, the orbit should be low. What would be a constant control point is needed so that the satellites are almost constantly above the desired point. Otherwise, there is no problem to make the escape maneuver to the ships. The trajectory of the satellites is predictable and known.
      1. 0
        August 11 2021
        a few might be enough. It's not about the possibility at any given time to have the coordinates of all sea targets on the planet. Where we can expect a meeting with the US AUG is roughly known in advance. Satellites can be maneuverable, or they should be. They can be launched into space immediately before a conflict or even during a conflict. When the approximate area becomes known, satellites go there (2-4?), Find the target - the command goes to the launch of the missiles. Of course, the enemy will know all this .. it can shoot down satellites, it can drown out signals, etc. then those measures above in the article and all the others that they have will finally finish off the capabilities of our GOS. And so there is a chance ... besides, the cover destroyers will know for sure that they will be the first to catch the Zircon, because they are sailing parallel to the aircraft carrier, and the rocket simply flies blindly to the rendezvous point ..
        1. 0
          August 11 2021
          Quote: Siegfried
          When the approximate area becomes known, satellites go there

          Satellites are not an airplane. To do this, they need to change the orbit, this does not happen very quickly, in some cases it is impossible. In general, there is a good article about this:
          1. +1
            August 11 2021
            the article is good, it is always interesting to read it again. But this is about - I found out about where, I sent the anti-ship missile about there, and then the GOS itself is further ... and if the satellite drops the coordinates directly to the rocket in time ... but of course this is all very difficult and possibly impossible at this stage, but I would like that then have it.
    2. -5
      August 10 2021
      Tyler Rogoway from The Drive Warzone gave a very interesting breakdown of the latest American inventions in the field of shipborne electronic warfare.

      Tyler Rogoway's calculations are currently not relevant. For example:

      The Nulka hovers in the air for a period of time and is a more tempting target for radar-guided anti-ship missiles than the attacked ship itself.

      The author needs to know: how many zones of propagation of the EMF (electromagnetic field) in space, how it will be formed in space (the process is random), as well as the algorithm of the RCC action, and so on. Many Russian missiles are equipped with GOS, which are insensitive to interference. The United States lags far behind Russia. Example ARGSN RVV-BD R-37M. "Believe it or not."
      1. +3
        August 10 2021
        "Many Russian missiles have GOS, which are insensitive to interference." ///
        Any seeker with a radar inside will be sensitive to just such interference.
        Not sensitive to radio interference seeker with a scanning IR video camera inside.
        But on Russian missiles there are no such GOS yet.
        1. -3
          August 11 2021
          Any seeker with a radar inside will be sensitive to just such interference.
          Not sensitive to radio interference seeker with a scanning IR video camera inside.
          But there are no such seeker on Russian missiles yet..

          voyaka uh (Alexey), teach materiel - complete ignorance of the basics of impulse technology.
          I have been explaining to you the theory of radar and other subjects for several years, it is clear that it is useless. You have no knowledge. Learn about signal limitersto talk in detail on the forum.
          Many seeker missiles of Russia not sensitive to external disturbances... An example of RVV-BD R-37M.
          voyaka uh (Alexey), it is ugly to write a lie.
          The homing head R-37M received advanced high-tech brains. GOS is equipped with a new miniature digital signal processor with a large memory capacity and increased speed. The seeker is immune to electronic warfare ...

          Content source:

          1. +1
            October 18 2021
            Well, okay, let it be a good refractory GOS ..
            But if you increase the interference power multiple times, then what will happen ???
            Will the GOS be susceptible to interference or not ???
            And if aiming to "beat" the seeker with powerful interference (and the power of the ship allows it), will the seeker be able to withstand or not ??? And if it does, what kind of error will it accumulate ???

            ZY And this, like who else believes that the Su-24 extinguished Cook ???
    3. 0
      August 10 2021
      Siegfried, you have an interesting comment at this point in time.
  5. 0
    October 30 2022
    Honestly, if you take the purpose of this development, you can see why it was created, I don’t understand much, but I see that this system is designed to prevent a retaliatory strike. The principle of siege.

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