Germany-based defense manufacturer HENSOLDT has successfully completed a new series of ground and field tests for Kalaetron Attack, the firm’s partially-3D printed jamming system.
The jammer is primarily designed for use on fighter jets like the Eurofighter, and serves to detect and interfere with a wide variety of anti-aircraft radar types. Following the invasion of Ukraine, the system was actually initially built to protect Western fighter jets against Russian air defense systems.
The latest set of tests demonstrated that Kalaetron Attack can detect even the most cutting-edge air defense radars and precisely fire off jamming signals to disrupt them.
“Control of the electromagnetic spectrum is an essential prerequisite for information superiority, and thus the success of military missions and the protection of one’s own soldiers,” says Celia Pelaz, Chief Strategy Officer and Head of the Spectrum Dominance Division at HENSOLDT. “Kalaetron Attack also makes it possible to deny the enemy the use of this spectrum – for air defense, for example.”
Additive manufacturing for air defense
Modern warfare is largely a game of cat and mouse, with ever-more sophisticated offensive weapons being countered by ever-more sophisticated defensive measures. Few know this better than HENSOLDT, one of the biggest firms in the European defense sector with over 6,400 employees and a 2021 turnover of €1.5 billion.
Kalaetron Attack is built for both self-protection and signal reconnaissance applications in the German armed forces, but can be utilized by other military units too. The system comprises a set of cognitive software elements, a fully-digitized broadband sensor, and an electronically controllable jammer.
Some of the metal electronic components of the jammer were 3D printed with a compact design so they could easily be integrated into the pod forms that are widely used in many of the world’s defense systems. Their design also allows them to be integrated directly into various aviation platforms such as fighter jets.
This isn’t HENSOLDT’s first deployment of additive manufacturing either, as the firm developed a self-sufficient 3D printing cell back in 2017. Housed in a 20 ft container, the facility is designed to allow HENSOLDT customers to experience first-hand how 3D printing can be integrated into day-to-day operations.
The company then partnered with 3D printer OEM Nano Dimension to 3D print and assembly a double-sided ten-layer PCB. The “major breakthrough” was a step toward developing high-performance electronic components through additive means. The firm has since been developing the work and applying the technology to military applications such as radar and optronics.
HENDSOLDT and Nano Dimension also expanded the partnership to form a joint venture entity named J.A.M.E.S (Jetted Additively Manufactures Electronics Sources). The two companies invested $6 million in the joint venture to further advance the development of 3D printed electronic components.
Throwing AI into the mix
According to HENSOLDT, the efficacy of Kalaetron Attack can largely be attributed to the artificial intelligence (AI) models residing within. The device leverages machine learning to classify unknown threats when used out in the field and quickly evaluate large amounts of data on the fly. As such, Kalaetron Attack combines the latest Edge AI techniques with the firm’s deep expertise in jamming technologies to provide a high-performance package fit for end-use.
The device will initially be used as an escort jammer for the Eurofighter jets in Germany’s Luftwaffe air force. The integration of the system will expand the electronic warfare capabilities of the Eurofighter for modern operational scenarios. Thanks to the scalability of the jammer, Kalaetron Attack can also be used on land vehicles and even ships.
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Featured image shows two German Eurofighter jets. Photo via Stefan Petersen, HENSOLDT.