01 April 2017
The joint Australian/U.S. Nulka (an aboriginal word meaning “be quick!”) active missile decoy has been produced for most major U.S. Navy warships, integrated into the AN/SLQ-32(V) electronic warfare system. The first installation began in 1994. It has now also been integrated into the SSDS (Ship Self Defense System). Nulka has been installed on the CG-47, DDG-51, FFG-7, LSD-41, and LSD-49 classes, with installation on nine CVNs beginning in FY14. Canada and Australia also operate Nulka. More than 1,000 Nulka decoy payloads have been delivered to the US and Australian Navies.
Nulka’s EW payload mimics a ship’s radar and radio signatures to lure incoming anti-ship missiles away from their targets. Nulka consists of a dedicated launcher, the Decoy Launching System (Mk 53), and the Offboard Active Decoy (Mk 234).
Other more recent versions include the Nulka DLF-3B (Mk 59) Decoy System, which responded to an urgent US Navy operational need by providing an initial limited interim decoy capability.
And the Advanced Decoy Architecture Project (ADAP) is another advanced EW payload, developed by Exelis (now Harris Corp.) under an ONR program as a temporary replacement for the current payload on the Nulka decoy. In FY16, 35 ADAP payloads were procured by the Navy at a unit cost of $538,000.
Earlier, in April 2013, E-Nulka was planned as a major US Navy new start program in FY14. E-Nulka would upgrade the Nulka decoy to expand frequency coverage to counter an emerging class of Anti-Ship Missiles (ASMs) for which no active countermeasure existed. The E-Nulka payload was to be competitively contracted and developed to be integrated into the existing Nulka flight vehicle. After FY14, E-Nulka development reportedly went classified.
Most recently, in January 2017 the Navy reportedly awarded Lockheed Martin, Syracuse, NY, a development contract for the AN/ALQ-248 Advanced Off-Board Electronic Warfare (AOEW) Active Mission Payload (AMP) system, a self-contained EW pod to be carried by an MH-60R or MH-60S helicopter to provide advanced anti-ship missile detection and response capabilities. ALQ-248 manufacturing is planned to begin in early 2019, to meet the program’s 2021 initial operational capability (IOC) goal.
With the many systems currently in development or likely to be funded in the next decade, we also provide analysis and speculative forecasts for Future ASM (Anti-Ship Missile) ECM (Electronic Countermeasures) Systems.
The Future: Teal Group Evaluation
Nulka is now an essential part of the US Navy’s surface ship ECM (electronic countermeasures) capability, especially as numerous other upgrades to the legacy AN/SLQ-32(V) EW (electronic warfare) systems have been cancelled through the years (such as AIEWS in 2002). Many U.S. Navy surface combatants have received Nulka. Only aircraft carriers had been considered too large to be simulated by the Nulka decoy round, but production for CVNs also began in FY14. Procurement of new launchers and decoys continues.
In April 2013, E-Nulka was planned as a U.S. Navy new start program in FY14 to upgrade the Nulka decoy to expand frequency coverage to counter an emerging class of Anti-Ship Missiles (ASMs) for which no active countermeasure existed. The E-Nulka payload would be competitively contracted and developed to be integrated into the existing Nulka flight vehicle.
We believed E-Nulka would be a vital upgrade and forecast substantial funding, as larger EW programs continue to be delayed or cancelled, but after FY14, E-Nulka development reportedly went classified and public funding lines were zeroed.
Then, by 2016 it became clear that several Nulka upgrade programs were already underway – including the Nulka DLF-3B (Mk 59) Decoy System, the Advanced Decoy Architecture Project (ADAP), and the AN/ALQ-248 Advanced Off-Board Electronic Warfare (AOEW) Active Mission Payload (AMP) system, with development reportedly contracted to Lockheed Martin, Syracuse, NY, in January 2017.
So, exactly what programs will be funded for what interim or longer-term use is somewhat unclear, and Lockheed Martin’s ALQ-248 is not even a hovering Nulka-type decoy. Yet Nulka launcher systems are still funded for the new Flight III version of the DDG-51.
Teal Group suspects the U.S. Navy is the service most nervous about any “pivot to Asia” and exposure to a growing Chinese Navy and increasingly numerous and capable land- and ship-based Chinese anti-ship missiles (ASMs). Presumably, the Navy cannot invest too much money in keeping its ships safe from ASMs of all types. Thus, the existence of several parallel programs, both Nulka-like and fully airborne, does not surprise us.
We expect U.S. Navy funding will only grow in the future, with a considerable amount of classified funding for even more anti-ASM capabilities. Other than quiet diesel submarines, for the next decade nothing will be more threatening to Navy ships than ASMs. The new and proposed Chinese aircraft carriers will not be a significant threat to U.S. Navy carrier groups for many years, and the Navy has many layers of offense and defense to neutralize one or several small Chinese carriers. In fact, their existence is probably more of a threat to China and would be a hindrance in any shooting war. The best thing the Chinese could do in that situation would be to park their carriers, a la the German Navy in both WWI and WWII, and go after America with ASMs and submarines….
Thus, although Lockheed Martin recently won the EMD contract for the ALQ-248 AOEW AMP system, we believe most development and procurement funding for Future ASM (Anti-Ship Missile) ECM (Electronic Countermeasures) Systems is still available and uncontracted, for the many parallel systems and capabilities to be funded in the next decade. Our forecasts are speculative.