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AN/ALQ-165 Airborne Self Protection Jammer (ASPJ)

The ASPJ contributes to full-dimensional protection by improving individual aircraft probability of survival. The AN/ALQ-165 ASPJ is an automated modular reprogrammable active radar frequency (RF) deception jammer designed to contribute to the electronic self protection of the host tactical aircraft from a variety of air to air and surface to air RF threats. The ASPJ was designed to accomplish threat sorting, threat identification, and jamming management in a dense signal environment to counter multiple threats. The modular architecture supports internal integration with other avionics/weapons systems in a variety of aircraft. The ALQ-165, a joint venture between Northrop Grumman and ITT Avionics, is now in production for the US Marine Corps and Navy's F/A-18s and F-14. The ASPJ was selected by the USAF for a planned F-111 upgrade during the late-1980s, though this upgrade was cancelled when the USAF decided to retire its F-111s.

The basic system consists of five weapons replaceable assemblies/line replaceable units (WRAs/LRUs) which include two receivers, two transmitters, and one processor. Each WRA is interchangeable among different tactical aircraft. Additional transmitters can be installed on aircraft with larger radar cross sections to increase the effective radiated power. Key to this architecture are the WRA installation racks which are of necessity unique for the particular type of aircraft in which the system is installed. These racks include a multitude of multi-pin connectors providing the interfaces between ASPJ WRAs and between the ASPJ and the host aircraft /other systems.

ASPJ entered FSD in 1979 and LRIP in 1989. Five OT&E phases were conducted with ASPJ FSD systems in 1988 and 1989. Flight testing on DoD electronic warfare (EW) ranges was in the F/A-18A and F-16A. Key performance criteria for effectiveness and suitability were not met and the FSD systems were not considered production representative. In 1990 the DAB agreed to revised ASPJ effectiveness measures. The Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) validated these measures in August 1991, and USD(Acquisition) approved the Acquisition Program Baseline (APB) incorporating them in December 1991.

Subsequent phases of DT and OT, including hardware-in-the-loop and open air range tests, were conducted with production representative systems and the F/A-18C. Testing was completed in May 1992 with OT-IID (OPEVAL) consisting of 301 sorties and 499.5 flight hours. DOT&E assessed the ASPJ as not operationally effective because it did not meet the requirement threshold value for increasing the survivability, in robust multi-threat mission scenarios, of an ASPJ equipped F/A-18 strike force over that of a non-ASPJ baseline F/A-18 strike force. DOT&E also assessed ASPJ as not operationally suitable because it did not meet required criteria for mission reliability or built-in-test (BIT) effectiveness. BIT inadequacies were a significant factor in failing to meet mission reliability requirements.

The ASPJ program was canceled and production was terminated. Sufficient ASPJs (about 100 systems) had already been delivered to equip the entire planned F-14D (ground attack upgrade) fleet. The F-14D was specifically equipped to carry the ASPJ and it was not considered economically feasible to modify the aircraft to carry another self protection jammer. In 2QFY93 the Navy obtained permission to field the existing ASPJ systems in the F-14D contingent upon satisfactory performance during FOT&E in the F-14D. Because no production decision would be involved, and no more feasible self protection alternative was available, a limited operational effectiveness criteria for ASPJ was articulated in an F-14D survivability critical operational issue as, "Is the F-14D more survivable with ASPJ than without it?".

In late FY95 an Air Force F-16 was shot down over Bosnia by a SAM. The operational commander urgently requested deployment of a developmental self protection system to improve survivability of F-16s and F/A-18C/Ds in the Bosnian theater of operations. Although successfully integrated on the F-16 and immediately available in limited numbers, the requested system was not compatible with the F/A-18C/D. The only system rapidly available to improve F/A-18C/D survivability against the threat of interest was the ASPJ. Contingency F/A-18C/D deployments continued as F-14D deployments began, resulting in potentially competing demands in the near term for available ASPJ systems. ASPJ was approved for export after the earlier Navy program cancellation, and the production line has remained open filling foreign military orders. The FY97 Defense appropriation provided $48.4M with direction that the Navy procure an additional 36 ASPJ systems with spares and support. The Navy intends to use these systems as a rotatable pool to equip three squadrons of USN/USMC F/A-18C/D aircraft, forward deployed for contingency operations, thereby not impacting on ASPJ availability for the F-14D.

Limited testing by the Navy and COMOPTEVFOR in late FY95 and early FY96, monitored by DOT&E, supported the Secretary of Defense decision to deploy available ASPJ systems from storage to the F/A-18C/Ds conducting the contingency operations. The Navy was responsive to DOT&E suggestions concerning the scope of these tests. These tests focused on confirming aircraft integration (since the aircraft baseline had changed after the FY92 OPEVAL), and on confirming that operational effectiveness remained consistent with the FY92 OPEVAL results against threats of interest in Bosnia. In addition, with on-site monitoring by COMOPTEVFOR and DOT&E, the USMC F/A-18 squadron in Aviano, Italy collected data during 4QFY95 to support an assessment of ASPJ suitability.

In 3QFY96, an early operational assessment by COMOPTEVFOR supported deployment of ASPJ in the F-14D. ASPJ testing, monitored by DOT&E, was conducted by COMOPTEVFOR during F-14D FOT&E (OT-IIIA) primarily in 1Q-2QFY96. The last F-14D OT-IIIA ASPJ flight testing was completed late 4QFY96.

No formal OT&E was conducted during FY97. COMOPTEVFOR tasked ASPJ equipped F/A-18 deployed carrier squadrons to report their assessment of ASPJ suitability. Feedback was negative, primarily due to excessive maintenance hours associated with removal and replacement of WRAs, which was required to meet stringent rack structural and installation inspections, imposed by the Navy to mitigate against the possibility of undetected rack cracking.

The F/A-18C/D with ASPJ was demonstrated during the FY92 OPEVAL, and since, to be more effective against selected modern threats than the F/A-18C/D with the AN/ALQ-126B. During the 4QFY95 shore based deployment which was evaluated, the suitability of ASPJ was adequate for the requirements placed on it during the contingency operations.

The ASPJ deployment in the Balkans did not yield quantifiable effectiveness data because there was no ground truth data collection of threat engagements of F/A-18s in Bosnia. During the initial contingency deployment, BIT "false indications" were a continuing problem with little understanding of cause and effect. They may be attributable in part to poor WRA seating, and it was recommended that the complex rack-to-WRA connector interface design be investigated, possibly related may be rack structural integrity and flexure. Subsequent F/A-18C/D carrier based deployments have experienced structural cracking of the ASPJ installation racks for which the Navy is seeking a solution. In the interim, some retrofit strengthening of the installation racks has been done by the Navy, and a rigorous periodic inspection program has been required to detect rack cracking. The Navy has determined that the specification for "G"-loading in the F/A-18 avionics bay is substantially exceeded during catapult launch. The ASPJ racks were designed to the incorrect specification.

DOT&E cannot certify that the ASPJ is effective against the original ASPJ requirement. The Navy has not defined their current requirement for an improvement to the defensive electronic countermeasures system on the F/A-18C/D. DOT&E could evaluate new effectiveness criteria against the extensive testing already conducted, to determine if additional effectiveness testing was required to support further procurement.

The F-14D ASPJ FOT&E, completed 4QFY96, was conducted in accordance with a DOT&E approved TEMP update and OTP, and was adequate to demonstrate the ASPJ was effective (it was evaluated against the F-14D requirement which was in essence to be better than not having a self protection jammer), and that it was suitable when installed in the F-14D. The F-14D uses a different rack and the installed arrangement of WRAs is substantially different than in the F/A-18. Operational ASPJ equipped F-14Ds have not reported rack problems.

Navy (canceled ACAT I Program)
36 systems authorized for procurement
with FY97 Congressional plus-up to
support contingency deployments in
F/A-18C/D.
Plus-up (FY97$):$48.4M
Average unit cost (FY97$):$1M
Anticipated Start Production:1QFY98
(contract still in negotiation)

Prime Contractor
ITT / Northrop Grumman (Joint Venture)

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