02 January 2019
This month we focus on the US Army’s AN/MLQ-40(V) Prophet program, born out of the US Army’s failed Intelligence and Electronic Warfare Common Sensor (IEWCS). Prophet has existed since 1998 and is still the primary US Army integrated all-frequency signals intercept/emitter location/countermeasures system which searches, intercepts, locates, identifies, and applies countermeasures to enemy fire control and command and control (C2) emitters. Taking over from IEWCS, Prophet became the major Army ground forces EW program (aside from counter-IED systems), replacing a rag-tag collection of non-interoperable systems which had previously made up the Army’s signals intelligence (SIGINT) and electronic warfare capability.
The aim of the earlier 1990s-era IEWCS/MEWSS (Intelligence and Electronic Warfare Common Sensor/Mobile Electronic Warfare Support System) program was to standardize the IEW assets of Army/USMC divisions, using new technology. After ten years of delays, the aim of the new Prophet program was to simply get something in the field which didn’t present the reliability and maintainability problems of the existing decades-old EW systems. Prophet Block I’s requirements reflected this. Basically, capabilities matched systems already fielded, but in much smaller, more transportable and maintainable packages, exclusively mounted aboard HMMWVs. This gave the US the same capabilities already in service with most European and other international armies. By going with the off-the-shelf Titan Systems/L-3 Communications AN/PRD-13 for Block I, the Army and Marines Corps. probably made the best decision to get systems in the field immediately.
On the down side, a lot of money was wasted on IEWCS (almost $1 billion), and Prophet Block I production systems were much simpler, less capable, and less expensive. Despite all the early hype over the Army’s Prophet SIGINT system, until FY06 Prophet was a small program in terms of funding. That changed with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as detecting ground signals – everything from cell phones to IEDs – became perhaps the most vital EW need in the Global War on Terror, and annual Prophet procurement funding of more than $100 million per year continued until early this decade.
In February 2009, an upgraded version, the AN/MLQ-44(V) Prophet Enhanced (PE), entered production with a $70.8 million contract to General Dynamics. However, Prophet procurement funding was cut sharply after FY09 and FY12, with another decline planned after FY16 (but then budgeted to recover slowly after FY17).
In 2014, Teal Group doubted total Army ground SIGINT funding would decline as precipitously as planned in the Army budgets, and we increased our speculative funding lines, both for Prophet and for Other Ground-based SIGINT & EW (non-counter-IED) systems. Some of this funding has since been restored to the budget, and by February 2018 funding had increased again for future Prophet upgrades.
By the middle of this decade, Prophet Enhanced was still the baseline Prophet system, and the US Army tactical commander’s sole organic ground-based SIGINT/Electronic Warfare system for the Multi-Function Teams (MfTs), Stryker Brigade Combat Teams (SBCTs), and Expeditionary-Military Intelligence Brigades (E-MIBs). PE’s primary mission is to provide 24-hour Situation Development and Information Superiority to the supported maneuver brigade to enable the most effective engagement of enemy forces. PE provides a modular, scalable, open architecture-based system solution optimized for ease of use in a variety of configurations (Stationary-Fixed, Mobile, and Manpack). It also incorporates product modification, integration, and test of equipment for rapid integration of Technical Insertions (TI) and product development to ensure operational relevance.
In June 2017, the U.S. Army awarded General Dynamics, GD Mission Systems, a five-year, $250 million contract to modify, test, train, and sustain the Prophet (PE) system.
The contract supports continuing non-recurring engineering upgrades to the PE Signals of Interest (SOI) baseline, enabling Theater Netcentric Geolocation (TNG) capabilities to leverage collaborative networks. Specifically, new signal capabilities will be developed, integrated, and tested/accredited to ensure that Prophet keeps pace with the constantly changing signal environment and to ensure that Prophet maintains its operational relevance against key enemy threats.
NOTE: Many Army and Marine Corps. ground-based SIGINT systems are now funded as classified programs. There is a remarkable absence of SIGINT funding lines in DoD budgets, aside from Prophet and some dedicated counter-IED programs (the counter-IED market is also highly “black”). Thus, we also include a speculative funding line for Future Ground-based SIGINT & EW Systems. Also note that our forecasts here do not cover classified or IED-specific programs. If including classified funding, even without counter-IED systems, our “Other” forecasts could be more than doubled.