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US group calls for more electronic warfare investment

Two US lawmakers are campaigning to stabilise investment in electronic warfare as two next-generation airborne jammer programmes enter an early development phase.

The prime goal of an EW working group led by Joe Pitts, of Pennsylvania, and Rick Larsen, of Washington state, is to persuade the US Department of Defense to create internal structures that will lead to a long-term investment strategy. That means creating a senior-level post to oversee joint requirements, flag officer-level champions in each service and a dedicated career track at all ranks.

"That in my opinion is sorely lacking," Pitts says.

Larsen adds that the group is seeking to have its objectives included in an "exit memo" that the current Pentagon leadership will prepare for the next administration for when it takes office in January. "We will try to get the next administration to build on this," Larsen says.

Much about the requirements and funding for US EW programmes remains classified, making it difficult for military and public officials to fully explain their concerns. But there is a consensus acknowledgement by military and engaged lawmakers that US combat aircraft will begin to face more powerful threats after 2012.

"There are some gaps we're headed for," says Pitts. "We need to address that."

Two major programmes have already been launched to bridge the gap. The US Navy has started to develop the next-generation jammer to replace the analogue ALQ-99 pod, and the US Air Force has started developing the core component jammer, a replacement for the stand-off jammer system cancelled in 2006. But both lawmakers express little confidence in the military's ability to adequately fund either programme.

"For whatever reason, EW has experienced the feast or famine effect," Larsen says. "We need to maintain a consistent investment."

Pitts notes that some of the equipment in use today is the same that he used as an EW officer on Boeing B-52s in the Vietnam War. "One thing we need is a co-ordinated strategy," he says.

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