BAE Systems has launched a new strategy to harness billions of dollars spent on developing electronic warfare tools for the US Air Force's fifth-generation fighters.
Unveiling two new product groups called "Boldstroke" and "Xtreme EW", BAE will first seek to break the Lockheed Martin F-35's electronic warfare suite into modules that can be tailored for other platforms and even for specific missions.
Paul Handworker, a BAE vice-president for business development, likens the Boldstroke vision to Microsoft's Xbox console, where the platform can load new "games" based on the mission that day. Already, the Boldstroke concept "is being applied across several programmes" in the US Department of Defense, he says.
Xtreme EW, meanwhile, pursues even more advanced non-kinetic strike capabilities, Handworker says. For example, a fighter equipped with an active electronically scanned array radar could cross an enemy radar beam and instantly transmit computer viruses into its processor. Such a capability still remains a distant goal, but is rapidly gaining interest.
Elements of Boldstroke technologies could also be packaged for export customers. The Boeing F-15 programme has selected BAE's digital electronic warfare suite, which incorporates Boldstroke, as an option for any follow-on or new orders by foreign customers. The system is also offered to the US Air Force's F-15E fleet as a retrofit, Boeing says.
The fourth-generation F-15E has been a candidate for several EW upgrades. In the past, Boeing has proposed an F-15E "Wild Weasel" to address the USAF's lack of an escort jammer like the US Navy's Northrop Grumman EA-6B Prowler. The USAF never embraced that idea, but there are signs of renewed interest in expanding the F-15E's non-kinetic capabilities.
For example, the USAF two years ago shelved a nascent effort to upgrade the F-15's analogue ALR-56C to a digital radar warning receiver. But discussions about starting such an upgrade have recently resumed, says Mike Henchey, Raytheon's director for business development. "Those things are in work and being looked at," he says. Raytheon is promoting the ALR-69 digital RWR, but several other candidates could also be offered.
The digital RWR would be most effective if combined with Boldstroke and the F-15E's future AESA radar. "There is certainly a great synergy that is built on, so the integrated sensor suite of radar electronic warfare and on-board computer systems will be ever tighter linked," Henchey says.
Boeing and Raytheon jointly kicked off the F-15E radar modernisation programme on 30 October. Raytheon is developing a derivative of the APG-63(V)3 for the F-15E, which is scheduled for first flight in 2011 and entry into service in 2014.