Electronic Combat, Explained

The Air Force is pursuing a many-faceted approach to the problem of electronic attack and electronic warfare, chief of staff Gen. Michael Moseley told defense reporters in Washington Thursday. The Air Force “may very well” go back to the concept of using the B-52 as a standoff jammer because it has the ability to generate lots of power and has “the acreage” on its large airframe to accommodate big emitter arrays. However, it’s not the sole or “simple” answer, and Moseley said he’s asked Air Combat Command and Air Force Materiel Command to develop an “enterprise” approach that would also rope in satellites, “manned and unmanned” aircraft, Rivet Joint, cyberspace, and partnership with the Navy on the EF-18 Growler. In addition, he said the F-22 and F-35 have “inherent” capabilities to perform electronic attack, not unlike the capability in the EF-111, retired these last 10 years. He also would not “discount” developing an EF-22 or EF-35 as a dedicated electronic warfare platform, although he doesn’t seem to think such is needed yet. Pentagon officials later said the electronic warfare portfolio also includes some classified, or “black” programs, such as a stealthy escort UAV that would jam at very close range and relatively low power, close to emitting sources, and that the Miniature Air Launched Decoy can be used to do some stand-in jamming as well. Both systems would be considered expendable, but would escort stealthy systems, while the B-52 jammer would protect un-stealthy, “legacy” aircraft. Newer versions of the Global Hawk UAV might carry jammers, too. USAF officials also said they may soon approach the Navy about a new deal that would have the EF-18 perform some jamming for USAF as well. Moseley said USAF sees electronic combat in terms of “theater-wide” applications, while the Navy sees it in terms of carrier-launched “raids.”