L3Harris Technologies reached a significant milestone in Electronic Warfare (EW), completing the first flight of what will become the U.S. Air Force’s advanced Compass Call aircraft designed to combat enemy threats.
L3Harris is working with an industry team to integrate the Compass Call EW system onboard the modern Gulfstream G550 business jet. The Gulfstream G550 has increased speed, endurance and extended stand-off range over the legacy EC-130H Compass Call aircraft – providing significantly improved survivability. L3Harris is supporting initial modification efforts at the Gulfstream facility where the first flight occurred.
The system features modular open system architecture, which enables rapid integration of new technology and reduces overall cost of future upgrades. Its size, weight and power enable customers to add new capabilities for evolving mission needs.
«The Air Force’s cross-deck initiative ensures it can continue its critical electronic warfare mission for many years», said Luke Savoie, President, Aviation Services, L3Harris. «Our collaboration with teammates BAE and Gulfstream will enable the Air Force to outpace its adversaries and counter emerging technologies».
The Air Force’s Compass Call program has been in operation for 40 years. The EC-130H Compass Call fleet is the longest continuously deployed Air Force aircraft in the Global War on Terror, serving as a key EW platform since 2002.
The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is excited to announce that the Navigation Technology Satellite-3 (NTS-3) satellite navigation program is closer in the development of the spacecraft for its in-space demonstration, thanks to the delivery of its bus that will carry it to space in 2023.
In 2019, the U.S. Air Force designated NTS-3 as one of three Vanguard programs, which are priority initiatives to deliver new, game-changing capabilities for national defense. The NTS-3 mission is to advance technologies to responsively mitigate interference to Position, Navigation and Timing (PNT) capabilities, and increase system resiliency for the U.S. Space Force’s Global Positioning System military, civil and commercial users.
Northrop Grumman Corporation recently delivered an ESPAStar-D spacecraft bus to L3Harris Technologies of Palm Bay, Florida in support of the NTS-3 mission scheduled to launch to geosynchronous orbit from Cape Canaveral in 2023.
The AFRL Transformational Capabilities Office at Wright-Patterson AFB and Space Vehicles Directorate, located at Kirtland Air Force Base (AFB) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, are in partnership with the two industry companies for the bus development and integration.
«This is the first time an ESPAStar bus has been built and delivered as a commercially-available commodity», said Arlen Biersgreen, the NTS-3 program manager. «NTS-3 is using a unique acquisition model for the ESPAStar line that fully exercises the commercial nature of Northrop Grumman’s product line, in order to provide the bus to another defense contractor for payload integration using standard interfaces».
The ESPAStar-D bus, built in Northrop Grumman’s satellite manufacturing facility in Gilbert, Arizona, includes critical subsystems such as communications, power, attitude determination and control, in addition to configurable structures to mount payloads.
A June 2021 press release from Northrop Grumman explains the company built the ESPAStar-D bus «to provide affordable, rapid access to space», and that its configuration, using an Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Secondary Payload Adapter (ESPA), allows multiple separate experimental payloads to be stacked together on one launch vehicle.
It should be noted that AFRL developed the ESPA ring – a technology that revolutionized the transport of space experiments, allowing for lower-cost and more frequent «rides» to space, for government and industry users.
«The transfer of the bus allows L3Harris to move forward building the NTS-3 spacecraft», said 2nd Lt. Charles Schramka, the program’s deputy principal investigator. «L3Harris will perform tests and begin integrating the NTS-3 PNT payload onto the bus. Together the bus and payload will form the NTS-3 spacecraft».
Following L3Harris’s work, AFRL will test the bus with the NTS-3 ground control and user equipment segments, and will perform its own integrated testing on the overall NTS-3 system architecture.
Besides the bus delivery, there are other advances in the program.
Schramka said, «This month we took delivery of an experimental receiver known as Global Navigation Satellite System Test Architecture (GNSSTA), developed by our sister AFRL unit, the Sensors Directorate at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio and Mitre Corporation. GNSSTA is a reprogrammable software defined signal receiver that allows us to receive the legacy GPS and advanced signals generated by NTS-3».
AFRL will continue its integration efforts through 2022 to ensure all parts are working together for the fall of 2023 NTS-3 launch.
«With the delivery of the bus we are entering into the next phase of payload integration», Biersgreen said. «These recent breakthroughs allow the program to continue to move forward and prepare for launch of the first U.S. integrated satellite navigation experiment in over 45 years».
L3Harris Technologies has been selected to design an autonomous surface ship concept for the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to demonstrate the reliability and feasibility of an unmanned ship performing lengthy missions.
L3Harris was chosen for phase one of the two-phase No Manning Required Ship (NOMARS) program. The L3Harris design concept will streamline NOMARS’ construction, logistics, operations and maintenance life-cycle. The company teamed with VARD Marine to validate the concept and design of the architecture and hull, mechanical and electrical systems.
The L3Harris design features an advanced operating system that can make decisions and determine actions on its own – without direct human interaction. This concept optimizes autonomous surface ship operations to support the U.S. Navy’s future missions.
«L3Harris continues to pioneer innovative autonomous solutions that offer fully automated and integrated ship control and preventative maintenance systems to the U.S. Navy and its allies», said Sean Stackley, President, Integrated Mission Systems, L3Harris. «The NOMARS program selection reinforces our commitment to deliver highly reliable and affordable autonomous solutions that transform the way the U.S. Navy conducts its future missions».
L3Harris is a world leader in Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) systems, with over 125 USVs and optionally manned vehicles delivered. The company’s USVs are actively serving U.S and international navies, universities, research institutions and commercial businesses.
The U.S. Navy awarded a $496 million Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) contract to L3Harris Technologies on December 18 to further the Next Generation Jammer Low Band (NGJ-LB) capability.
The contract supports the final design efforts and manufacturing of eight operational prototype pods and four test pods that will be used for various levels of testing and fleet employment to include airworthiness, functionality, and integration with and carriage on the EA-18G Growler host aircraft.
The contract award announcement from Airborne Electronic Attack (AEA) Program Office (PMA-234), the managing office for product acquisition, comes directly on the heels of NGJ-LB entering the EMD acquisition phase, often referred to as Milestone B (MS B).
«I’m proud of the hard work and determination of the Navy and industry team», said James Geurts, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition. «The teams work to reduce development risk, inform technology realities, and speed capabilities to the fleet was impressive. The efforts by all those involved enabled the Navy to move forward in a rapid manner to bring this new critical capability to bear for our warfighters, saving years in operational development».
Geurts signed the MS B Acquisition Decision Memorandum December 8, signifying his satisfaction with NGJ-LB’s proposed cost, schedule and performance intentions.
The program embarked on a Demonstration of Existing Technologies in late 2018, which informed technical maturity of capabilities. Originally the program was approved as a Middle Tier Acquisition Program due to the need for speed to fleet, but changes in policy mandated that the U.S. Navy rapidly move the program to a Major Defense Acquisition Program.
«The program did a great job of overcoming all the obstacles that this transition laid in front of them», said Geurts. «Really a herculean effort that I’m honestly proud to have been part of».
«NGJ-LB is the next step in the evolution of Airborne Electronic Attack that is needed to meet current and emerging electronic warfare gaps», said Rear Admiral Shane Gahagan, Program Executive Officer, Tactical Aircraft Programs. «The increased jamming capability that NGJ-LB brings to the warfighter is critical to sustaining the future missions of the Navy and other services».
NGJ-LB is an external jamming pod that will address advanced and emerging threats using the latest digital, software-based array technologies and will provide enhanced AEA capabilities to disrupt, deny and degrade enemy air defense and ground communication systems.
«Our AEA arsenal continues to expand with the NGJ-LB capability», said Captain Michael Orr, PMA-234 program manager. «With the NGJ-LB EMD contract award, we continue our focus on delivering the warfighter an unsurpassed capability».
NGJ-LB is part of a larger NGJ weapon system that will augment, and ultimately replace the legacy ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming System pods in the low frequency spectrum currently used on the Growler. The weapons system is a joint program initiative with Australia.
Leonardo has recently proven the newly-expanded capabilities of its ULISSES acoustic Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) system in a demonstration off the coast of Italy. During the demo, Leonardo showed how the Firefly, AQS-18, dipping sonar from L3Harris Technologies worked in concert with the ULISSES processor to automatically locate simulated enemy submarines and alert the crew to their presence.
The demonstration follows the successful integration of the Firefly dipping sonar with the ULISSES system. Firefly incorporates a high-powered active sonar which can dive down up to 200 m/656 feet below the sea surface and detect targets as far away as 20 miles/32 km while transmitting sonar and sonobuoy processing, audio and video to the shore via a wideband data link.
For the demo, the ULISSES and Firefly equipment was installed on a naval vessel while an Italian Navy NH-90 helicopter supported by dispensing sonobuoys during the trial. A key design feature of the ULISSES/Firefly system is its lightweight form factor, which can also be fitted to small, light helicopters for littoral operations. The integrated capabilities shown in the demo represent a solution to the growing requirement from armed forces to conduct ASW operations in blue and shallow waters.
Observers on-board the command ship were able to watch on an operator’s screen as ULISSES combined inputs from the Firefly dipping sonar with data from active and passive sonobuoys to automatically locate potential contacts and raise alerts. The ULISSES and Firefly systems offer ‘multistatic’ functionality where the processors collect and exploit data from up to 64 distributed dipping sonar and sonobuoy sensors, using the multiple sources of information to accurately triangulate the location of enemy submarines.
ULISSES was introduced to the market at Farnborough Air Show in 2018 and was successfully demonstrated in a live sea trial in November 2019. The system is now fully developed and talks are on-going with a range of potential launch customers.
The successor to Leonardo’s well-regarded OTS-90 acoustic system for Italian and Dutch NH-90 helicopters, ULISSES provides highly-advanced capabilities in an even more lightweight package. This makes it ideally suited to smaller helicopters and is designed as a form-fit replacement for the OTS-90, making it an attractive proposition for the retrofit market. The system is also suitable for fixed-wing aircraft, naval vessels and, without the dipping sonar, drone aircraft.
L3Harris Technologies has received a contract from the U.S. Navy for the Medium Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MUSV) program. This is the Navy’s first program for an unmanned surface vehicle to support the Navy’s Distributed Maritime Operations strategy.
The $35 million initial award is part of a $281 million program that includes a prototype and options for a total of nine MUSVs. L3Harris will integrate the company’s ASView autonomy technology into a purpose-built 195-foot/59.4 m commercially derived vehicle from a facility along the Gulf Coast of Louisiana. The MUSV will provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to the fleet while maneuvering autonomously and complying with international Collision Regulations, even in operational environments.
«The MUSV program award reinforces our investments in the unmanned market and demonstrates our ongoing commitment to bring mission-critical capabilities to our warfighters», said Sean Stackley, President, Integrated Mission Systems, L3Harris. «L3Harris is continuing to develop a full range of highly reliable and affordable autonomous maritime capabilities to enable distributed maritime operations in support of the National Defense Strategy».
L3Harris will be the systems integrator and provide the mission autonomy and perception technology as the prime contractor on the program. The program team includes Gibbs & Cox and Incat Crowther who will provide the ship design and Swiftships will complete the construction of the vehicle.
L3Harris is a world leader in actively powered Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) systems, with over 115 USVs delivered worldwide. L3Harris’ USVs are actively serving the Navy, universities, research institutions and commercial businesses.
L3Harris Technologies is on track to begin building the U.S. Air Force’s first Navigation Technology Satellite-3 (NTS-3) after completing the program’s critical design review.
L3Harris will integrate the program’s experimental payload with an ESPAStar Platform, planned for launch in 2022. The system is designed to augment space-based position, navigation and timing capabilities for warfighters.
The NTS-3 payload features a modular design and can adapt to support various mission needs. The experiment will demonstrate capabilities that can be accomplished through a stand-alone satellite constellation or as a hosted payload.
«Collaboration with our customers has enabled us to move rapidly through important milestones to design this experimental satellite», said Ed Zoiss, President, Space and Airborne Systems, L3Harris. «Our goal is to deliver new signals to support rapidly evolving warfighter missions».
Less than a year after award, the company cleared the first development hurdle in half the time similar satellite programs take. The Space Enterprise Consortium selected L3Harris for the $84 million contract in 2018 as the prime system integrator to design, develop, integrate and test NTS-3. L3Harris is combining experimental antennas, flexible and secure signals, increased automation, and use of commercial command and control assets.
Designated as one of the Air Force’s first vanguard programs, NTS-3 will examine ways to improve the resiliency of the military’s positioning, navigation and timing capabilities. It will also develop key technologies relevant to the Global Positioning System (GPS) constellation, with the opportunity for insertion of these technologies into the GPS IIIF program. The program is a collaboration with the Air Force Research Laboratory, Space and Missile Systems Center, U.S. Space Force, and Air Force Lifecycle Management Center.
L3Harris has more than 40 years of experience transmitting GPS navigation signals. The company’s technology has been onboard every GPS satellite ever launched.