^
Keep Dallas Observer Free
4
| News |

DFW Gets Slice of $1 Billion Electronic Warfare Project

Defense industry money is a lot like military aircraft. Sometimes it arrives loudly, like a cargo plane rumbling down a runway. Other times it slides into a local economy like a stealth bomber — quietly but effectively.

This clumsy analogy brings us to last week's announcement that the Pentagon is spending $1 billion to have Raytheon design a new jamming device for Navy warplanes. The defense firm will design and manufacture 15 "Next Generation Jammers" that will fly inside pods under the wings of warplanes. 

The pubic release included a helpful breakdown of where the work will be done.  Nearly 14 percent of the work will be done in Dallas and another 8 percent performed in McKinney. The bulk of the work will be done in El Segundo, California. There are two reasons for splitting up work across the nation. One is practical — different areas have specialities, so spreading the work around makes sense. The other reason is cynical — the more congressional districts a defense program touches, the more defenders in Congress who want to see those jobs land in their districts. 

At this point you might be asking, what the hell does a jammer do? 
A jamming pod is essentially filled with antennae and radar transmitters. This equipment is vital for a warplane to survive modern combat. The first fight of every mission — a bombing run, surveillance or dogfighting — is waged across invisible parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. Radar can overpower other radar, sensors can be spoofed with "ghost airplanes." Having a fast fighter that carries this equipment on strike missions is at the core of what the Navy does.

I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

The Navy's baddest-ass electronic warfare plane is the EA-18G Growler,  a variant of the F/A-18F Super Hornet. The fighter jet turned electronic warfare platform zips in ahead of other warplanes, radiating powerful signals at wavelengths shared by enemies, blinding them to the aircraft following the Growler.

Well, that's the theory.  In reality, the EA-18s are carrying a system fielded in 1971. The ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming System in current use can't keep up with the gear of modern enemies. It doesn't have the power to overcome others and doesn't have a wide enough the frequency range to handle all comers. They (probably) give off too much heat, making the airplanes easy targets for enemy heat-seeking missiles. Hence the billion investment in a Next Generation Jammer, which is expected to migrate to other warplanes, even some manned and unmanned warplanes outside of the Navy's inventory. That makes this a potentially vast, lucrative project for Raytheon. This project gives them a big head start on the follow-on procurements.  

This is good news for the North Texas economy. Dallas is where Raytheon tests its advanced naval radar. (This work includes new warplanes arriving for classified tests, as the Navy confirmed to the Observer this month.) So keep watching the skies. And if you see a Growler, get a photo of it and let us know at Tips@dallasobserver.com. In North Texas, you never really know when the next secret test flights will be overhead.  

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.

 

Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.