WASHINGTON — The U.S. military is assembling a family of systems to provide soldiers with electronic warfare, signals intelligence, and cyber capabilities they can use near and far, on the ground and in the air.
The projects – essentially siblings – are known as the Terrestrial Layer System-Brigade Combat Team, TLS-BCT; the Earth Layer System – Brigade Echelons Above, TLS-EAB; and the Multi-Function Electronic Warfare-Air Large, or MFEW-AL.
Each serves its own purpose and is at its own stage of development. But what military and industry officials are pointing to is their future synergy: how each piece fits neatly into the puzzle of electromagnetic spectrum dominance.
“We don’t expect these systems to accomplish their own mission; they need to be used in tandem, whether we’re using an MFEW-Air Large in the air to get range [or] watch precision long range lights with [TLS-EAB]William Utroska, who works with the Army’s Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors Program Executive Office, told reporters in August at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.
“That’s one of the points I wanted to make right off the bat,” he said. “We anticipate that these systems will be mutual, used in tandem, to provide the commander with the best effects.”
Electronic warfare is a struggle for control of spectrum, which the military uses for situational awareness, communications, weapons guidance and more. This competition is increasingly important as more advanced technologies are deployed on the battlefield and troops attempt to minimize their signatures to avoid detection.
In July, the Army awarded Lockheed Martin a $58.8 million contract for TLS-BCT. The other transaction authority agreement runs through October 2023. The company is expected to provide prototype mounted Stryker combat vehicles that are ready for operational evaluation and delivery to an initial unit.
“It really is an exciting time for TLS-BCT,” said Major Derek Vanino, deputy product manager of the terrestrial spectrum warfare portfolio at PEO IEW&S, during a panel discussion in August. “We have made a lot of progress with our industrial partner.”
The service in August signed separate agreements with Lockheed and General Dynamics Mission Systems for TLS-EAB concepts and demonstrations. The first phase is valued at $15 million over 11 months.
Compared to its parent TLS-BCT, TLS-EAB is believed to go further and interface with larger footprints and formations.
“We’re going to be designed to provide long-range sense and effect, integrated SIGINT, EW, and cyber-enabled radio frequency. But we’re going to do it at longer range and at echelons that don’t have that capability organically right now: division, corps, and theatre,” said Major Joseph Fink, also deputy product manager of the warfare portfolio. of the terrestrial spectrum. at the same event. “We also have different sets of goals. We have different signals of interest at each level. And these are developed in real time.
The stand-alone MFEW-AL module is also produced by Lockheed. It was intended to be mounted on an MQ-1C Gray Eagle drone. The pod won applause from Under Secretary of the Army Gabe Camarillo, who observed a prototype in the field this summer, courtesy of PEO IEW&S.
Together, the three systems are expected to boost situational awareness and soldier effectiveness in future combat, potentially against technologically savvy adversaries such as China and Russia.
“What’s important about this is that the three programs were designed to work together,” Deon Viergutz, vice president of spectrum convergence at Lockheed, said in a Sept. 26 interview. “Think about it on a battlefield: they are part of a family of integrated and networked systems.”
Among other factors, Viergutz assigns a share approach for the success of every business so far. Flexible and rapidly scalable equipment is important for the military, according to service officials.
“What enabled it was common architecture, hardware and software,” Viergutz said. “And that’s what really lays the foundation for the military to actually be able to do these programs as part of a family of systems.”
Colin Demarest is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covers military networking, cyber and IT. Colin previously covered the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — namely the Cold War cleanup and the development of nuclear weapons — for a South Carolina daily. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.