[UPDATED WITH VIDEO] Fixing the Pentagon’s electronic warfare strategy

[UPDATE: Click on this video for an excellent history of the USA's development of electronic warfare from World War II through the Cold War.]

Much aboutthe requirements and funding for electronic warfare programmes remainsclassified, making it difficult for the military — and, not to mention, bloggers — to describe whether true gaps exist.

But thereseems to be a consensus view in military, industry and public policy circles that US combataircraft will become vulnerable in critical ways to developments in integrated air defense systems, such as the Russian S-300.

“There aresome gaps we’re headed for,” Joe Pitts, a Pennsylvanian congressman and former B-52 electronic warfare officer, told me and other reporters yesterday in typically cryptic fashion. “We need to address that.”

Two majorprogrammes have already been launched to bridge the gap. The US Navy hasstarted to develop the next-generation jammer (NGJ) to replace the analogALQ-99 pod. The US Air Force has started developing the core component jammer(CCJ), a replacement for the standoff jammer system (SOJS) cancelled in 2006.

But Pitts and other interested lawmakers, such as Washington’s Rick Larsen, seem very concerned that neither the navy, the air force, nor the Pentagon is serious about fully developing either technology.

It doesn’t help that both programs are poster kids for what some fairly influential Pentagon officials might call “next war-itis” technologies. Neither of these systems will be of much use countering cell-phone wielding insurgents, but they could come in handy if you need to bomb, say, downtown Tehran after 2015.

In an intriguing role reversal, the two USlawmakers are now lobbying the Pentagon to stabilize investment in electronic warfare as the twonext-generation airborne jammer programmes enter an early development phase.

The primegoal of this so-called “electronic warfare working group” is to persuade thePentagon to create internal structures that will lead to a long-term investmentstrategy.

That meanscreating a senior-level post to oversee joint requirements for electronicwarfare, flag officer-level champions in each service and a dedicated careertrack at all ranks.

“That in myopinion is sorely lacking,” Pitts said.

Larsenadded that is seeking to get the group’s objectives included in an “exit memo”that the current Pentagon leadership prepares for the next administration thattakes office in January.

“We willtry to get the next administration to build on this,” Larsen said.

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8 Responses to [UPDATED WITH VIDEO] Fixing the Pentagon’s electronic warfare strategy

  1. eg 31 July, 2008 at 3:54 pm #

    “In an intriguing role reversal, the two US lawmakers are now lobbying the Pentagon to stabilize investment in electronic warfare as the two next-generation airborne jammer programmes enter an early development phase.”

    Which begs the questions -
    What companies are in their districts? And what does the Air Force want?

  2. John S 1 August, 2008 at 3:38 am #

    Boeing developed the EA-18G Growler mostly on their own dime by integrating the basic EA-6B sensor suite into the F/A-18F airframe.

    How about doing the same to another Boeing airframe and create the EF-15F JamEagle?

  3. Stephen Trimble 1 August, 2008 at 10:22 am #

    Boeing has proposed an F-15 Wild Weasel as recently as 2004, if I recall correctly. The US Air Force has shown no interest. The basic problem for the USAF is a lack of LO for the F-15. Even as a jammer, the USAF doesn’t want a non-stealthy aircraft in the strike package betraying the position of nearby F-22s and B-2s. I’m not saying completely follow the USAF’s logic on this point, but it is what it is.

  4. John S. 1 August, 2008 at 2:15 pm #

    Wild Weasel is a different mission from escort jammer, and currently the WW mission is assigned to the F-16.

    The Navy has made it abundantly clear that as the EA-6B is retired, they will retire from the Joint Escort Jammer mission. They are only purchasing enough EA-18G Growlers for fleet needs.

    Interesting that the Air Force doesn’t think the F-15E is stealthy enough for a jammer role, yet is still pursuing the EB-52H program? Yeah, those B-52s are very LO.

    At one point the Air Force was considering UAVs for the escort jammer role, and the EB-52 for the standoff jammer role, but that’s asking a bit much of a remote pilot to keep up with a strike package.

    At some point it is going to dawn on the Suits that either the USAF needs to buy some Growlers of their own, or else add the Growler capability to one of their existing airframe types. The only two candidates are the F-15E and the F-35.

    An EF-35 is intriguing in that one could use an F-35B airframe, and replace the lift fan with a shaft driven generator for jammer power, and incorporate the emitters into the airframe or stealthy underwing pods. Without the RAT spinner on the front of the pod, a pasable LO pod might be possible.

    However, now you’re putting an escort jammer at least 15 years out, if you start today. So that comes right back to either buying the Growler or creating an EF-15E for use in the interim.

  5. Stephen Trimble 1 August, 2008 at 2:18 pm #

    Great points! I’ll expect the USAF to turn some of the F-35s into jammers for the escort role. The USMC has already decided to do this, and has built the F-35 into the requirement for the next generation jammer program.

    The USAF is also using the MALD-J for the stand-in role, and is widely believed to have a few classified tricks up its sleeve in this area.

  6. EG 1 August, 2008 at 2:35 pm #

    What does the Air Force want versus what does it need? Don’t forget there are always coalitions within any service. Remember coalitions tried to kill the A-10 to fund their projects. Maybe the EB-52 is run by a strong coalition. Remember, for many past a certain point in their career it’s about the career and not the true needs of the service.

    Not to pick on the Air Force, remember the Navy gave up long distance ASW (The S-3) in order to fund fast tactical jets. If your ride is taken out by a cruise missile launched by a sub 300 miles away, a fast jet ain’t going to help.

  7. John S. 4 August, 2008 at 6:55 pm #

    Considering the USAF had UAVs equipped for escort jamming some 40 years ago, I’m not convinced we’re not capable of doing it today whether — remotely or autonomous ;)

    The Quail?!?

  8. Matt 6 August, 2008 at 6:12 pm #

    Thanks for putting in that video. As an amateur EW/ELINT fan I enjoyed it very much.

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