The Navy awarded a $279.4-million contract to Raytheon Co. to build the next generation of electronic attack jammers, which spew radio waves and emit other electromagnetic noise to jumble enemy signals.
Electronic warfare technology -- much of it top secret -- aims to counterbalance foreign militaries' multimillion-dollar investments in shoring up air defenses and continuing advancements in radar detection.
The technology is key to the military executing bombing missions. Military aircraft outfitted with jammers accompany fighter jets and bombers. The jammers befuddle enemy radars, so U.S. war planes go undetected and are prevented from getting shot down.
For the last 33 months, the Navy has held a competition to determine which company would build the new system, which is slated to bring increased jamming capability that the Navy says is critical to sustaining the future aerial strike missions.
As the winner, Raytheon -- with its sprawling military electronics campus in El Segundo -- now has 22 months to develop a preliminary design for the new jamming pods.
Requirements for the new jammer haven't been announced. Little is known about the details and capabilities as electronic warfare has always been shrouded in secrecy in order to stay ahead of potential adversaries.
The goal is to begin producing new jamming devices on the carrier-based EA-18 Growler jet by 2020. The "EA" in the Growler's name stands for "electronic attack."
“Our technology approach met the program requirements and leveraged our industry team’s extensive experience in combat-proven … systems designed for demanding carrier-based aircraft environments,” said Rick Yuse, president of Raytheon’s space and airborne systems business.
While militaries have been waging electronic warfare since World War II, today's technology packs a strategic wallop unforeseen even a decade ago.
The Growlers, based at the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Washington, look like imposing fighters armed to the hilt with big bombs slung under their wings ready to drop on the enemy. That's because the plane is a modified version of the F/A-18 Super Hornet. But a closer look reveals that instead of bombs, it carries an array of radars, antennas and high-tech gear.
Each of the devices hanging from the Growlers' wings performs a different function, including pinpointing the location of enemy radar sites, intercepting and jamming radio signals and following the changing enemy radar tactics.
The Growlers' fuselage sections are manufactured inside Northrop's 1-million-square-foot facility on Aviation Boulevard, about a mile south of Los Angeles International Airport.