Shipboard

The new electronic warfare system on board the navy is scaled down for small ships

SEWIP Block III and other “soft kill” systems are increasingly becoming essential assets in defending ships against attacks from a wide range of threats, as they can react almost instantly in any direction, from multiple ways and with unlimited magazine depth. Along with the variety of directed energy weapons on the horizon, these types of advanced electronic defenses can provide a new invisible layer of protection around surface combatants that can keep pace with the rapidly changing threat landscape at sea. .

The Navy and Northrop Grumman have not yet entered into a contract on the SEWIP Block III “Lite”, but Meaney added that the contractor expects an order for four more full-size Block III systems in 2022. This would bring the total number of SEWIP Block III under new contract. A system is already being installed on board an unnamed ship Arleigh Burke-class destroyer on the west coast.

The sheer size of the SEWIP Block III system makes it impossible to scale to small vessels in its current form, with engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) models measuring over twenty two feet tall.

Other older block SEWIP system configurations include much smaller, simplified modular enclosures such as the unit below, seen at USS Gridley (DDG-101).

Installing SEWIP Block III on Arleigh Burke class destroyers is quite elaborate and includes four such large arrays, each containing four AESA arrays themselves, to provide spherical coverage around the ship. They will be placed in enclosures built under the Arleigh Burke-class bridge wings where there are platforms and attachment points for existing electronic warfare systems today. This invasive and wide configuration is simply not an option for small vessels.

When it comes to warships smaller than the Arleigh Burke but larger than the patrol boats that could be candidates for SEWIP Block III Lite, the Navy currently has its struggling fleet of littoral combat ships and the future of service Constellation class frigates, formerly known as FFG(X). Although there are around two dozen LCS delivered, the first of the new frigates is not expected to be delivered until 2026, while some estimates put that date closer to 2029.

The Navy had discussed plans to place SEWIP Block II aboard FFG(X), as early as 2019, speaking of a potential ‘SEWIP Block III Lite’ as a future option if enough space and power aboard the ships could be reserved. A designation for this Block III Lite, SLQ-32C(V)7, was listed in a 2019 presentation given to the Surface Navy Association (SNA).

Besides the possible use on board the future FFG(X), a smaller version of the SEWIP Block III could be a very interesting upgrade for the Navy. Freedom class and Independence-class littoral combat ships. Since at least 2014, the Navy has planned to deploy earlier SEWIP configurations aboard the two classes that make up the problematic LCS program, but they currently remain limited to various electronic support measures suites and expendable decoys. Giving them SEWIP Block III Lite, with its active electronic attack capabilities, would allow them to operate in high-risk areas, which would be very useful given the changing geopolitical and national security landscape. It would also give them another highly valued weapon for offensive attacks. Overall, these ships are notoriously underarmed for their size and lack robust anti-aircraft capability, in particular. As such, a reduced SEWIP Block III could be extremely valuable and provide more relevance to the LCS fleet, as a whole, in the future.

The Navy’s other surface combatants could also benefit from a more easily installable SEWIP Block III capability, from its amphibious assault ships to its upcoming light amphibious warfare ship.

There are also a host of other Allied naval weapons that use SEWIP today that would be excellent candidates for a version of this system. Networking more allied ships with this new technology will only increase the survivability and lethality of the total allied force during combined operations as well.

Altogether, the Navy’s continued efforts to develop defensive and offensive electronic warfare capabilities demonstrate just how important electronic warfare is to protecting naval assets against proliferating threats around the world, especially those posed by competitors from other countries. ‘peer states. A “lite” version of SEWIP Block III that could be successfully deployed aboard smaller ships would go a long way in helping the Navy significantly strengthen some of its ships’ defenses while giving them a new weapon to use against the enemy.

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