SAAB’s TERNAV can fight in combat zones without GPS
Electronic warfare, or GE, plays a critical role in air force combat tactics today.
Essentially, a fighter jet must be able to find and destroy enemy targets in an electromagnetic environment that scrambles its electronic radars.
This can include the use of x-rays, visible light, infrared, microwaves and radio waves.
For example, the US Air Force is arming F-15C fighter jets with a new type of sensor targeting pod that can find and ultimately help destroy targets otherwise undetectable by standard radar detection of fighter, National interest reported.
This is the Legion Pod, an infrared search and tracking (IRST) targeting technology recently tested by the Air Force in Alaska during the 2021 Northern Edge wargame.
Now ready for operational service, it identifies targets beyond the typical range of an electronic scanning radar through the use of an “out-of-band” sensor or out-of-band detection method. frequencies used by standard radar.
Meanwhile, Swedish aerospace and defense company Saab, which makes Gripen fighter jets, has found a new way to prevail in high-tech air-to-air engagements in GPS-prohibited areas, Eurasian times reported.
Jonas Jakobsson, an experimental test pilot at Saab, explained the importance of the platform’s position in a tough EW environment.
Jakobsson stressed the need for pinpoint accuracy and how even simple yards make all the difference in combat.
In today’s air operations, the margin for error remains incredibly small, and even a minor error can have far-reaching consequences leading to collateral damage.
Recent wargames in Scandinavia have also shown how game-changing GPS jamming can be.
So what does Saab offer?
Aerospace giant plans to pool inputs from its existing TERNAV terrestrial navigation system using a real-time odometry imager from a camera installation, EurAsian Times reports. coupled with a 3D cartographic surface model provided by Maxar Technologies (a leading space technology and intelligence company).
If that sounds complicated, it sure is.
The company claims this will provide far greater positional accuracy than using traditional inertial measurement systems in GPS-prohibited areas.
The highlight is that the aircraft can perform its own navigation without relying on external systems such as fixed towers or satellites etc.
Saab’s TERNAV backbone is an algorithm powered by a radar and a laser altimeter. This is the company’s own version of the Inertial Navigation System (INS).
Currently, the positioning systems are based on the INS, IN, the drift of which is corrected by data from the global navigation satellite system (GNSS) when available; manual support where the pilot enters a patch, as well as conventional navigation aids such as VOR, DME and TACAN, are rarely used.
In short, without the help of GNSS, the position error will increase over time due to the inherent drift of INS. Saab therefore replaces the loss of a GNSS fix with data provided by a merger of field navigation and image-based navigation.
All of this crucial data is fed into the Gipen pilot’s Wide Area Display (WAD), a high-resolution panoramic display packed with information.
The single screen replaces three large screens of the old version and gives the pilot a wide panoramic view of the area surrounding the aircraft.
WAD information includes mission routes, approach threats, and more from sensors, radars, and data streams from other aircraft.
It also suggests handling the aircraft such as deploying Gripen’s countermeasure systems, weapon selection, etc.
As Saab test pilot Robin Nordlander said The reader, the Gripen E was designed with the rider in mind.
The advanced human-machine collaboration aims to ensure that the platform and the pilot work together seamlessly.
âWhen it comes to sensor fusion, it’s about maintaining absolute maximum situational awareness. You can have the best kinetic performance in the world, but without situational awareness you’re a sitting duck, âhe said.
âIn Gripen E, we are talking about transparent fusion. I need to know which sensors / platforms provide which data and what the quality of that data is, to be able to make the best possible decision!
“Knowing what the opponent knows about me is also crucial in making the decision.”
Saab and Maxar conducted flight tests in 2018 with a gimbal-mounted camera.
In 2020, a new demonstration was carried out integrating the algorithms on a Gripen E / F demonstration aircraft equipped with an electro-optical sensor installed in the fuselage, the system processing the scene in real time.
Full operational capacity is expected within three to five years, the company said.
Is there a downside to TARNAV?
Indeed, there is.
Experts say TERNAV is an active system with radar altimeter broadcasts that risk revealing the presence of the aircraft to the adversary.
Nonetheless, existing Gripen users have reportedly expressed interest in the new technology, which may not be limited to just the jet fighter.
Such innovations in navigation could even be incorporated into the GlobalEye and unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as air-launched weapons.
The Pakistani Air Force uses the Saab-2000 Airborne Early-Warning & Control aircraft, giving rise to the possibility of adopting Saab TERNAV for its air fleet.
India might not be a potential customer as it uses NAVIC system.
Sources: The National Interest, The Eurasian Times, European Defense Journal, Saab Group, The reader