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The US Army has conducted flight testing of an unmanned airborne electronic attack capability, called the networked electronic warfare remotely operated (NERO), in The Great Salt Lake Desert at Dugway Proving Ground Utah, US.

Undertaken last month, the testing was aimed at proving that it is technically and tactically feasible to field an effective jammer, which has conducted engineering analysis and aircraft alterations for more than two years, on an unmanned aerial platform.

Funded by the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), NERO is the combat-proven communications electronic attack surveillance and reconnaissance (CEASAR) jamming capability attached to the Gray Eagle unmanned aerial system (UAS).

Raytheon and General Atomics worked with the project manager for the army’s unmanned aerial system programme and the Naval Surface Warfare Center to design and perform proper modifications to accommodate the jammer, and operate the Gray Eagle UAS.

Army Electronic Warfare Division airborne electronic attack programmes subject-matter expert Clay Ogden said: "This demonstrated the viability of a Gray Eagle based high-powered jamming capability to support the army’s EW (electronic warfare) counter-communications and broadcasting EW requirements in the future.

"Results of the flight testing will inform development of the army’s organic multi-function electronic warfare capability, which is an integral part of the Integrated EW System of the future."

During flight testing, NERO flew for a total 32 hours, with 20 being while the jammer was operating.

Payloads are expected to be used for additional testing for airborne electronic warfare, as the army does not have immediate plans to place a jammer on a smaller UAS.

Army Electronic Warfare Division chief colonel Jim Ekvall said: "Airborne electronic attack provides an enormous amount of support to troops on the ground, and with the NERO payload on a UAV, mission times are increased and are more cost effective for the army."

Image: The NERO jamming payload attached to a Gray Eagle UAS at Dugway Proving Ground Utah, US. Photo: Doug McDaniel, PM UAS.

Defence Technology