WASHINGTON — After zeroing out procurement for the Army’s first brigade aerial jamming pod for Fiscal Year 2022, the service’s electronic warfare community is trying to add funding back in the next budget cycle.
In the Army’s most recent budget, it eliminated its plan to spend $12 million to purchase the Multifunction Electronic Warfare-Air Large system, an electronic attack pod also capable of cyber effects mounted to a MQ-1C Gray Eagle. It was designed to be the first brigade-organic airborne electronic attack asset.
Despite cutting procurement, the Army did ask for $12 million in Fiscal 2022 for research and development funds for the pod.
“We have proposed a course of action for consideration to Army senior leaders to add a limited amount of procurement back to the line. That’s pending,” Col. Daniel Holland, capability manager for electronic warfare, said during a virtual presentation hosted by AFCEA’s Northern Virginia chapter Jan. 13.
Holland said they are updating the capability development document for MFEW to “tighten up some key performance parameters for multidomain operations against near peer threats.”
Following the zeroing out for procurement dollars, the Army’s top acquisition official for the EW portfolio described a “prove it” phase for MFEW.
“We’ve got to show that the MFEW capability can operate in a robust environment and potentially on platforms, not just the Gray Eagle, but looking at diversified platform set … and looking for how MFEW will operate before we make a commitment on how we’ll necessarily go after a capability like MFEW in the future,” said Mark Kitz, program executive officer for intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors. “I think over the next year the Army is going to get some data and learn how this MFEW capability will enable how we want to operate in the future, and I think that data will then inform how we go forward with an MFEW-like capability.”
While acknowledging challenges in the budgeting cycle, Holland believes the Army is on “solid footing” for a developmental test and a limited user test in 2022, for which the updated document will be necessary to inform.
“We think that the [capability development document] update includes feedback from the operational force, particularly the division, which is particularly important as the Army pivots from a [brigade combat team]-centric Army to a division-centric Army, since MFEW is intended to be fielded to division combat aviation brigades, the detailed performance improvements that we’re going to specify in the [capability development document] update are particularly relevant for this pivot,” he said. “I’ll say that we’re constantly looking to pace the threat and the [capability development document] does just that.”
Despite the challenges, Holland said the Army’s electronic warfare community believes MFEW is an important component of the service’s portfolio. In fact, other service officials have noted that MFEW is an integral part of the Army’s family of electronic warfare systems.
“All of our capabilities … when used in tandem — [Terrestrial Layer System-Brigade Combat Team], [Terrestrial Layer System-Echelons Above Brigade], MFEW Air Large — are all integrated to provide that EW and those cyber effects,” said Deputy Project Manager for Electronic Warfare and Cyber Willie Utroska in August.
Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.