A U.S. Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier jump jet squadron is set to conduct trials on the service's new Intrepid Tiger II communications intelligence and jamming pod next month.
The device is an open-architecture, commercially derived unit built by the service to quickly and effectively field state-of-the-art electronic attack capabilities on a limited budget. This will be the second iteration of the pod.
Each pod - which is integrated by the service itself, not a contractor - costs less than $600,000 and can be upgraded by simply replacing off-the-shelf internal components without exhaustive integration work or testing, said U.S. Marine Lt. Col. Jason Schuette, who serves in the U.S. Navy's N88 office as the EA-6B and Marine Air Ground Taskforce (MAGTF) electronic warfare requirements officer. Schuette was speaking at the Lexington Institute's Electronic Attack Capitol Hill Conference on July 28.
"In fact, in two years, when I get ready to upgrade whatever is inside this pod, I will just pullout the part and put in the new one," Schuette said of upgrading the device to it's future Intrepid Tiger II configuration. "I will [not] rely on industry to continue to make a part that is old and obsolete; I'll put in the new one."
Eventually the pod will not only collect communications intelligence and jam those transmissions, but also it will be upgraded to provide electronic support.
Schuette said the service was able to build the cheap and flexible pod by leveraging commercial development of the electronic hardware. New civilian hardware can produce very clean signals, he said.
The challenge, said Schuette, is the bureaucracy - the Marines have to convince the test community that the new part will not have to undergo an exhaustive test process from scratch.
"The challenge will be convincing the testing powers-that-be that we shouldn't have to go back and do all sorts integration testing to field this pod that we continue upgrade," Schuette said.
Timely fielding of new technology is critical in the fast moving electronic attack field because technology and threats change rapidly, he said. Fielding upgrades quickly is vital.
The pod will be tested next month with a Harrier squadron and will deploy in the fall if everything goes according to plan, Schuette said. But eventually the pod will also be carried on the F/A-18 Hornet fighter and AH-1 attack helicopters.
In keeping with Marine doctrine, the pod will be used to support Marine ground forces, whose radio battalions will control the pod from the surface. The pilot will be able to control the pod, but the idea is that Marines on the ground control the pod, eventually with a handheld device.