June 04, 2012
Credit: Credit: Alenia Aeronautica
Airborne electronic attack has long been a domain dominated by a select group. But that is starting to change as more users get their hands on advanced communications jamming tools.
In the U.S., the vanguard of airborne electronic attack has been a small collection of assets: the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps EA-6B Prowler, U.S. Air Force EC-130H Compass and more recently the Navy's EA-18G Growler. But an increasing number of manned and unmanned aircraft are likely to be given access to such tools; and, perhaps more critically, control over the devices will start shifting to ground forces.
Moreover, the U.S. is likely to see more countries trying to gain access to the electronic attack domain.
The Italian air force is developing an EC-27 “JEDI” electronic attack aircraft. The system is effectively a smaller version of the USAF EC-130H Compass Call.
Based on commercial off-the-shelf equipment, the system is set up as a roll-on/roll-off capability, says Col. Giuseppe Sgamba, who commands the Italian air force's electronic warfare (EW) center. The aircraft need to be modified with transmit-and-receive antennas, but the mission system in the back can be taken out to allow the airlifter to be used for other roles.
The primary mission is to jam any type of enemy communications, including in selective-reactive modes. A secondary mission would be to defeat radio-controlled improvised explosive devices by jamming the triggering signal. Thirdly, the asset would have electronic support measures, Sgamba told the Association of Old Crows/Shephard's Electronic Warfare Europe conference.
The program was begun as an experimental effort within the intelligence center. Flight trials have been conducted on Italian air force ranges, with a plan to possibly introduce the system into service soon. The initial capability is still rudimentary, but Sgamba suggests there is an effort to mature the capability.