The Navy and Northrop Grumman just took a major step forward on defending ships from enemy missiles. Northrop announced this afternoon it had passed a Critical Design Review (CDR) for a new jamming and spoofing system for Navy warships, Block III of the Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program (SEWIP, rhymes with Cool-Whip).
While design reviews remain to be done for other parts of SEWIP Block 3 — power, cooling and so on — all those components exist to serve the Electronic Attack Subsystem that just passed CDR. It’s this subsystem that causes enemy missiles to go off-target and splash harmlessly into the water instead of slamming unto a US Navy ship at hundreds of miles per hour and then exploding. The previous SEWIP blocks upgraded the controls and sensors of 1970s-vintage electronic warfare systems, but it’s Block III that can actually stop an inbound missile.
In contrast to traditional systems designed to operate in a narrow range of frequencies against known threats, “SEWIP Block 3 brings active electronic attack across a wider frequency range…with digital processing that will facilitate new ‘intelligent’ EW processing that will enable the system to react to signals it has never seen before,” said retired Navy commander Bryan Clark, now with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “SEWIP Block 3’s AESA array enables it to be a passive sensor, communication array, or a radar,” he added. “It could also confuse or obscure aircraft and ship radars” as part of the Navy’s new “electromagnetic maneuver warfare” concept.