Radar jammers are an inconvenient necessity. After all, a 30-year-old US Air Force strategy has poured billions of dollars into stealth technology to make radars irrelevant in modern combat.

That money has produced a relatively tiny stealth force backed-up by more numerous, non-stealthy aircraft, whose survival depends on radar jammers. The darker irony is that stealth aircraft remain vulnerable to radar detection, and lose more of their electromagnetic edge with every 18-month cycle of Moore's Law.

Yet, the USAF appears oblivious to this peril. It retired its last EF-111 Raven radar jammers in 1997 and has failed to convert B-52s into long-range jamming systems. A 15-year-old deal to embed about 20 USAF electronic warfare officers inside the US Navy's EA-6B Prowler unit ends in 2012.

Rather than acknowledge the crisis, the USAF pretends it doesn't exist. A new strategy unveiled this week relies on a low-cost solution that is at best a stopgap. The USAF risks sacrificing the electronic warfare mission to the navy, army and Marine Corps. More disturbingly, it exposes its own combat pilots to a known and increasing danger.

USAF pilots may be the best trained in the world, but - contrary to fighter-jock culture - flying skill is no match for a "double-digit" surface-to-air missile on radar lock.

Source: Flight International