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  • Aggresive Plan Needed For U.S. Electronic Offense
    Posted by David A. Fulghum 5:31 PM on Aug 09, 2011

    Plans to put the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ) on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter may come to naught due to high cost, unavailability of aircraft for specialized electronic attack missions and advances in penetrating unmanned aircraft.

    Foes are making rapid advances with non-kinetic weapons, networked command-and-control and cyber intrusions—using cheap, commercially available electronics—that are proving expensive for the U.S. to counter, say electronic warfare specialists.

    Part of the answer, say defense specialists, is to turn away from designing new, specialized, air, ground and ship platforms and shift the available funding to networked and readily upgradable systems that use existing or cheap unmanned designs.

    The Navy’s NGJ system is being designed to attack enemy electronics with jamming, pulses of high-power microwaves, and packets of algorithms to infiltrate enemy networks. It will likely migrate to both large and small, penetrating, unmanned aircraft. These new designs—now being referred to as adjunct platforms—will have roll-on, roll-off payloads that allow them to perform specialized missions with a minimum of transformation time.

    “AEA provided by the Growler is central to the continued war-fighting success of Navy aviation and the rest of the military,” says Richard Gilpin, deputy assistant Navy secretary for air programs.  “While NGJ is not the only program of note in the AEA system of systems, it is clearly the most important.”

    Navy officials with the most insight into the NGJ program predict there will be a lot of challenges, but they intend to make it affordable, interoperable and upgradable enough to get the maximum capability out of it for as much as 40-50 years.

    Another issue is that all corners of the electromagnetic spectrum are now being exploited. Dominating what is called the “spectrum high-ground” will demand that the U.S. adopt an aggressive, offensive program of electronic and anti-electronic operations.

    “The Navy will shift its war-fighting EW perspective from low-density, single-platform solutions [for example, the EA-6B Prowler] to a networked system of systems that acts in a collaborative manner with software applications that can share data,” says Marine Corps Lt. Col. Jason Schuette, aviation EW requirements officer for the Navy’s operations staff. “Air-ground spectrum capabilities will provide combined arms effects and allow the military to keep an offensive stance. Maintaining the electromagnetic spectrum as maneuver space presents the enemy with [surveillance and communication] dilemmas.”

    While operators are loath to discuss EW and electronic attack (EA) capabilities, there are some hints from discussions about the anticipated new U.S. capabilities.

    “Once an airborne electronic attack pod is turned on to deliver non-kinetic fires, the ground force will have its own signal-detection devices with which it can immediately garner battle damage assessment of the effects on enemy systems and to see what the foe is doing in trying to counter these effects,” Schuette says.

    “Hardware and software innovation that drives commercial industry is also driving our adversaries to devise better ways to exploit or disrupt traditional defenses as well as the command and control of precision navigation and timing and cyber operations,” Schuette says. “As a result, the [U.S.] does not have the spectrum high ground. Commercial development is letting the enemy get the best of us. Our challenge is to develop capabilities that will allow an offensive mind-set. That is what has always allowed us to stay ahead of our adversaries.”

    Tags: ar99, EW, EA, NGJ

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