While that likely will change as the Navy acquires a carrier-based version of the stealthy F-35 fighter aircraft, Thompson says, “The Navy is the main repository of electronic warfare expertise in the joint force, and that inclines it to assign less importance to low-observables.” For aircraft launched from carriers or other vessels, jamming and EW are often more valuable and effective than stealthiness.
But the rest of the military is starting to focus more on EW.
“The Department of Defense is increasingly dependent on access to the electromagnetic spectrum—the full range of all possible frequencies of electromagnetic radiation, including frequency ranges such as radio, microwave, infrared, visible, ultraviolet, X-rays and gamma rays—for a variety of military uses, such as communicating, navigating, information-gathering and sensing, and targeting,” notes the U.S. Government Accountability Office in a report released this month.
Overall, the Pentagon will be steadily increasing its investment in EW programs in the coming five years, growing to about $5.6 billion in fiscal 2017 from about $3.6 billion in fiscal 2013, based on the analysis of Avascent data.
That is a reversal of a trend in the latter half of the previous decade, which showed Defense Department spending for electronic warfare reaching about $3.9 billion in fiscal 2008 and spiking to about $4.5 billion in fiscal 2010 before dropping off to about $3.3 billion in fiscal 2012, the Avascent data and analysis show.
The single-largest type of expense—about $28.1 billion—in the coming years will be the actual production of the electronic warfare equipment and platforms, the Avascent analysis indicates, with EW development running a distant second with $11.2 billion. Program management support is ranked third with $1.5 billion.
The projected expenses for production really ramp-up in fiscal 2016-17, the analysis indicates, with the Pentagon scheduled to spend at least $3.8 billion during each of those years.
The biggest single electronic warfare platform and program highlighted by the Avascent analysis is the Navy's P-8A Poseidon with about $2.3 billion in spent funds or expected spending during the 10-year period, the Avascent analysis shows.
The aircraft, based on a Boeing 737 platform, will replace the Lockheed P-3 Orion, with initial operational capability expected in 2013.