PMA-234 teammates (from third left to right) Mike O’Grady, Capt. Jared Goul, Keith McDonnell and Capt. David Rueter, PMA-234 program manager, stand with Sam Messer, Association of Naval Aviation’s Patuxent River Squadron commanding officer (far left), Tom Rudowsky, NAVAIR deputy commander (second from left), and Vice Adm. Carl Chebi, NAVAIR commander (far right). PMA-234’s Next Generation Jammer Mid-Band team received the Edward H. Heinemann Award at the NAVAIR Commander’s Awards May 22.

Next Generation Jammer wins top Navy aircraft system improvement award

The Next Generation Jammer Mid-Band (NGJ-MB) team recently won the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) Edward H. Heinemann Award for implementing a critical design change to the NGJ-MB pod by removing the Aft Pivot Assembly (APA) from the pod design, saving millions of dollars and hundreds of hours in testing, and fielding the capability.

Presented annually to the individual or group of individuals within NAVAIR who achieved or helped achieve significant improvement in the design or modification of an aircraft or an aircraft system, the Edward H. Heinemann Award honors the legendary Douglas Aircraft Company chief engineer/designer of many naval aircraft. This award is sponsored by the Association of Naval Aviation.

Part of the Airborne Electronic Attack Systems Program Office (PMA-234), the NGJ-MB team is responsible for fielding a jamming capability to meet current and emerging electronic warfare threats and ultimately replace the legacy ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming System (TJS) currently used on the EA-18G Growler aircraft.

The APA was originally designed as a mechanism to aid in pod longitudinal rotation during a jettison from the EA-18G Growler, particularly at high speeds. During flight testing, engineers discovered that loads were being transferred from the EA-18G pylon to the APA, resulting in the possibility of exceeding the maximum load capacity of the APA.   

“This solution was an incredible collaboration between the program office, Naval Warfare Centers, the test community, big Navy, and industry,” said Capt. David Rueter, PMA-234 program manager. “Faced with several cost-prohibitive options to resolve the issue, the team found an innovative solution to remove the APA in its entirety, while still providing a suitable jettison envelope to the fleet that matches the legacy ALQ-99.”

To ensure testing timelines were met, the team conducted a robust cost-benefit analysis, directly involving the fleet warfighter on what would be acceptable. The first step in this process was to ascertain if a reduced jettison envelope would be beneficial. Since the EA-18G Growler would also be carrying the ALQ-99 TJS pods in conjunction with NGJ-MB for the foreseeable future, this became the starting point. In concert, engineers sought to determine what matching the reduced ALQ-99 jettison envelope would do to the NGJ-MB jettison characteristics while engaging the fleet on the suitability of what that envelope would be.

Within weeks, a decision was reached, with supporting evidence showing that the NGJ-MB jettison characteristics were allowable at ALQ-99 airspeeds while gaining concurrence from the fleet. Further, Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) engineers determined that this jettison envelope could be achieved without conducting any jettison testing and by using computational fluid dynamics analysis only. Since the program originally planned on conducting a jettison program over the course of six months using four jettison NGJ-MB pods, the cost savings of nearly $3 million was remarkable. Additionally, this freed up the jettison pods to be used elsewhere in the program in aeromechanical testing and fleet training, saving even more time and money.

“The new design proved to be extremely effective, with no impact on pod performance, and all initial load concern issues were eliminated,” said Capt. Jared Goul, NGJ-MB deputy program manager. “While this problem and solution may seem small in comparison to much larger projects, it stands as a testament to the highest level of performance from a cross-functional government and contractor team. The speed of analysis and execution was unmatched and sets the standard for what NAVAIR and NAWCAD strive to accomplish.”

“This award recognizes our highly talented, joint cooperative U.S. and Australian team, and highlights the diversity of agencies supporting the development of these critical capabilities for the warfighter,” said Rueter.

PMA-234 and the Royal Australian Air Force share a joint cooperative partnership on NGJ-MB and capability development.

From PMA-234 Communications

 

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