VIDEO: F-117 pilot describes shootdown over Serbia

The article below will appear next week in Flight International magazine. Click on the video to hear Lt. Col. Dale Zelko describe the moment a Serbian missile shot down his F-117 stealth fighter. 

USAF re-orients frustrated jamming strategy

By Stephen Trimble/Washington DC

The US Air Force has dramatically changed the focus of a frustrated, decade-long attempt to revitalize its ability to jam radars and communications systems.

After abandoning a second attempt earlier this year to convert some Boeing B-52Hs into standoff jamming platforms, the USAF investment strategy has shifted to fielding less expensive “stand-in” systems that could be delivered within a few years.

“In this new environment, as we look at this fiscally-constrained world, we’ve got to figure out how to do it with less money, but we also have to figure out how to do it faster,” Maj Gen David J. Scott, air staff requirements director, said 20 October.

Scott, addressing the Association of Old Crows annual convention, cited Raytheon’s miniature air launched decoy-jammer (MALD-J) as a key priority in the new strategy. The MALD-J remains in development, but, when deployed, will fly into defended airspace and jam hostile radars.

The USAF also has revealed plans to adopt a low-cost strategy to augment its aging and heavily used EC-130 Compass Call fleet. Compass Call crews jam communications systems ranging from the command and control networks of peer militaries to mobile phones carried by insurgents for coordinating ambushes or triggering improvised explosive devices.

Two weeks ago, the Aeronautical Systems Center‘s capabilities development division issued a call for industry to propose ideas for augmenting the EC-130′s mission with a communications network attack pod.

The USAF may acquire low-cost, communications jamming pods for “existing aircraft”, and deploy them no later than 2012, the survey notice says.

Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), fighters, bombers and transports could be used to carry the pod, the notice says. Performance requirements for the jamming system are classified, but the survey notice says some are “challenging”. If a company is unable to deliver a fully compliant system by 2012, it should explain how it could be upgraded to meet all of the requirements later, the notice says.

The low-cost, stand-in jamming strategy is the latest plan for addressing the US military’s acknowledged gaps in electronic warfare capabilities.

The USAF chose not to replace the EF-111 Raven fleet, retired in 1997. Two years later, Serbia shot down the Lockheed F-117 fighter, exposing the need for robust jamming even with stealth technology.

In 2002, the USAF launched the airborne electronic attack system of systems strategy, which called for acquiring the B-52 standoff jamming system. But the USAF cancelled the programme in 2005, claiming the programme’s cost had ballooned from $1 billion to $7 billion.

A scaled-back version of the B-52 concept was revived in 2007, renamed the core component jammer. But the USAF acknowledged that the CCJ programme was eliminated in budget plans earlier this year.

“I think when you see the final [Fiscal 2012 programme objective memoranda and FY2011 budget request], I think you’ll see that we’ve tried to do some things to improve those capabilties,” Scott says.


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7 Responses to VIDEO: F-117 pilot describes shootdown over Serbia

  1. FlightDreamz 23 October, 2009 at 3:13 pm #

    Little typo just below your headline. Quote,”Click on the video to hear Lt. Col. Dale Zelko describe the moment a Serbian missile shot down his F-117 stealth fighter. ” Shot down WHO’S stealth fighter? Scott O’Grady was piloting the F-117 not Lt. Col. Zelko.

  2. FlightDreamz 23 October, 2009 at 3:15 pm #

    Ooops! Double post sorry!

  3. Stephen Trimble 23 October, 2009 at 3:24 pm #

    Hi Flightdreamz. I actually made that mistake a couple of days ago. Scott O’Grady was shot down over Bosnia in 1995 in an F-16. Zelko was shot down in 1999 in an F-117 over Serbia. But both incidents very often get confused by me and many others.

  4. FlightDreamz 23 October, 2009 at 6:28 pm #

    I stand corrected, thanks for the quick response.

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