Navy airborne electronic attack system also capable of delivering cyber effects

The Navy's Advanced Off-Board Electronic Warfare system also has cyber capabilities.
(Lockheed Martin concept art)

Officials and members of industry have discovered that the Navy’s helicopter-based anti-missile electronic ship defense platform is also capable of creating cyber effects, according to the system’s prime contractor, Lockheed Martin.

“We’re getting out in the field and we’re finding that it does things that we … didn’t anticipate, which is good,” Joseph Ottaviano, director of maritime and air cyber/electronic warfare at Lockheed, said, referring to the Advanced Off-Board Electronic Warfare (AOEW) system.

AOEW is a pod mounted to MH-60 Sierra and Romeo helicopters and meant to address ships’ line-of-sight limitations in the electromagnetic spectrum while also providing electronic attack capabilities against potential threats such as missiles.

“As we’re finding, common with some of the things we do in the maritime and airborne cyber/EW, is if you can perform [electronic attack], you can perform other things up to and including cyber. [It] starts becoming a converged system very quickly,” he told FedScoop on the sidelines of the Sea-Air-Space conference at National Harbor, Maryland.


He continued: “We’re finding a lot of those capabilities that we didn’t necessarily anticipate or design directly into them are available to the customer. It’s a pretty powerful situation for us.”

In addition to the regular test and evaluation assessments that Pentagon programs must undergo, Ottaviano said AOEW has participated in some Navy exercises, though he declined to say which ones or the extent to which the system was used. He offered that they were operationally realistic scenarios.

Ottaviano described the system as part of the Navy’s “layered defense,” with organic defense both on and away from a ship.

“If you can do EA, and you architect the system right, you can also present cyber effects as well. We’re seeing some of that,” he said.

These converged capabilities are similar to those Lockheed is providing for the Army for some of its programs, he noted. While declining to offer any specifics or examples, one such system is the Multi-Function Air Large system, an electronic attack pod mounted to an MQ-1C Gray Eagle drone.


Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that while MFEW is an example of what Lockheed is providing to the Army, Ottaviano did not cite it specifically.

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