WASHINGTON -- The Army is looking for an electronic-warfare system that can be integrated onto a Gray Eagle unmanned aircraft system, according to a request for information released this week.
The release of the RFI is the first signal the Army is moving out on its second phase in a plan to develop a complete Integrated Electronic Warfare System. It will have three parts: The Electronic Warfare Planning and Management Tool, the Multi-Function Electronic Warfare capability and the Defensive Electronic Attack capability.
The MFEW system will provide the ability to detect signals and to jam them if necessary. The capability will be housed on a large and small unmanned aircraft and later a rotary-wing aircraft. The capability will also reside in a large and small ground vehicle, at fixed sites and as a wearable device for the dismounted solider.
The plan for the MFEW large air version is to reach initial operational capability in 2023, but Army electronic warfare leadership have pushed for a faster fielding of the capability as Russia exhibits strong electronic warfare tactics. The Russians' capability has been well-highlighted in the war in Ukraine.
The Army has fielded an initial version of the EWPMT last year that will allow soldiers to plan, coordinate and synchronize electronic warfare within the electromagnetic spectrum using a computer screen with visual aids.
Now the Program Executive Office Intelligence Electronic Warfare & Sensors wants to know what potential sources exist that can provide a "modular, scalable, Offensive Electronic Attack/Electronic Support payload," the RFI states.
Based on market surveys already conducted, according to the request, the Army's Gray Eagle will be the host platform for the MFEW Air Large platform and the Army expects no significant modifications to the aircraft to incorporate the system.
The EWPMT will provide all command, control and mission planning of MFEW assets, the RFI states.
The technology should be mature enough that the Army can modify a commercial off-the-shelf or government off-the-shelf offering.
And MFEW should have "open standards" in order to re-use across all the MFEW air variants, according to the request.
The Army is considering holding a competition using a two-phased down-select method, the RFI states, and expects hardware deliveries to begin 18 months after contract award to begin qualification testing and integration.
The service has been working to accelerate the procurement path for EW capability after it almost entirely divested of it in the 1990s.
As one of the Army’s new Rapid Capability Office priorities, EW is now again at the forefront. The RCO is designed to rapidly field capability in a one to five year time frame.
"We need capability and capacity to do electronic warfare and electromagnetic spectrum operations before 2023 plus or minus a year or two. How can we take the things that exist today and get them into our inventory and get them supported," Col. Jeffrey Church, the chief of strategy and policy in the cyber directorate, said recently.
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.