The AN/SLQ-32 is a shipboard electronic warfare suite built by the Raytheon Company of Goleta, California. It is currently the primary electronic warfare system in use by U.S. Navy ships (as of 2007).
Referred to by it operators as the "slick-32". The SLQ-32 was originally conceived in the 1970s to augment the AN/WLR-1, which had been in service since the early 1950s. It was later determined to save costs to replace the various WLR-1 series suites with the SLQ-32 as a stand alone system. As originally designed, the SLQ-32 was produced in three variants, the (V)1, (V)2 and (V)3. Later in its service life, two additional versions were built, the (V)4 and (V)5.
All versions of the SLQ-32, with the exception of the (V)4, are interfaced with the MK36 Decoy Launching System, able to launch chaff and infrared decoys under the control of the SLQ-32. The number and arrangement of MK36 launchers installed depends on the size of the ship, ranging from two launchers on a small combatant to as many as ten on an aircraft carrier. A growing number of systems are being upgraded to incorporate the multi-national MK-53 Nulka system.
The original modular design was intended to allow upgrades of the system from one variant to the next by simply installing additional equipment as required. Starting in the early 1990s, a program was begun to upgrade all SLQ-32s in the U.S. fleet. Most (V)1 systems were upgraded to (V)2, and most (V)2 systems were upgraded to (V)3. This was normally carried out during a major ship overhaul.
The initial procurement process was built around a “design to price” concept in which the final delivery cost per system was fixed in the contract. The SLQ-32 was designed to support the protection of ships against anti-ship missiles in an open sea environment. After initial deployment of the system, naval roles began to change requiring ships to operate much closer to shore in denser signal environments. This change in roles required changes to the SLQ-32 systems which were added over time. With experience gained working with the SLQ-32, coupled with improvements to the hardware and software, technicians and operators gradually overcame the initial problems. The SLQ-32 is now the mainstay of surface electronic warfare in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard's WMEC 270-foot (82 m) Class Ships.
In 1996, a program called the Advanced Integrated Electronic Warfare System (AIEWS) was begun to develop a replacement for the SLQ-32. Designated the AN/SLY-2, AIEWS reached the prototype stage by 1999, but funding was withdrawn in April 2002 due to ballooning costs and constant delays in the projects development. It has since been replaced with General Dynamics' Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program (SEWIP), which will build on the existing SLQ-32 hardware and technology in an evolutionary fashion.