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  • Threats Grow, Budgets Shrink, EW Could Be Compromised
    Posted by David A. Fulghum 12:38 PM on Aug 03, 2011

    Traditionally, in times of funding slowdown, “electronic warfare is the first thing we cut,” says Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), who chairs the House electronic warfare working group. But that template may change because international threats from electronic, directed-energy, information and cyber operations – all now mixed in the electronic warfare realm – are growing at lightning speed.
    While electronic and cyber combat may dominate future battles, funding is not keeping pace. Moreover, the military is wearing out its assets, particularly in airborne electronic attack, which could lead to a significant electronic warfare shortfall, Washington-based analysts contend.

    The need to transform Air Force electronic attack systems while at the same time spending to upgrade aging EW systems is presenting a huge financial burden.

    “The Air Force cannot sustain systems whose effectiveness does not justify the cost of ownership,” says Col. Joseph Skaja, chief of Air Combat Command’s combat enabler division for requirements. “Legacy systems struggle to evolve to meet the challenge,” he says. “[The combat air forces] will spend almost $3 billion to sustain EW systems. The B-52 systems alone will account for $884 million and the F-15 will soak up a further $603 million.”

    Part of the solution will be changes in what the Pentagon buys, says Jacques Gansler, professor in the University of Maryland’s school of public policy and former undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

    “Unit cost must be a design requirement,” Gansler says. He points to the Joint Direct Attack Munition as one of the few programs where that policy applied and notes that cost dropped to $17,000 each from $40,000. The Pentagon also must stop buying ships, airplanes, tanks and other 20th century weapons and shift to intelligence, information, unmanned, anti-missile and networked systems, he says.

    “An integrated [network-centric] system will include distributed sensors and shooters, rather than requiring every weapon to be self-sufficient and therefore extremely complex and expensive,” Gansler says. "The lower cost of individual elements will enable far larger numbers to be acquired.”

    The plan to get out from under legacy cost involves focusing investments in the airborne electronic attack system of systems, Skaja says. One element is the Counter Communications Electronic Attack Pod for communications jamming. The MQ-9 Block 5 Reaper is the platform for testing. Another advance will be the upgrading of existing EA pods for the F-16 and A-10 using digital radio-frequency memory to replace obsolete parts. The EC-130 Compass Call fleet will be upgraded and enlarged with additional airframes. It will begin functioning within the Distributed Mission Operations Network.

    The final component of the upgrading will be introduction of the Miniature Air-Launched Decoy and Jammer (MALD and MALD-J). The MALD-J provides stand-in jamming in heavily defended areas. It can degrade and deny the use of radars. An Increment II improvement is designed to improve the basic jammer payload by a factor of 10. It also will be the vehicle for high-power microwave attacks to damage enemy electronics.

    However, more could be accomplished if the Pentagon and industry cooperate to ensure new investments, including private investment in EW, and if flag officers in each service are appointed to head the future development of EW and its associated capabilities, representing the discipline at the highest levels of the military and government decision making, Larsen says.

    The U.S. Army also is trying to move quickly to shore up gaps in its EW capabilties, says Maj. Richard Savageau of Army Headquarters’ EW division. A total of 29 gaps are being addressed. Among the improvements planned are linkages to a Joint EW system of systems and the introduction of directed-energy weapons to target improvised explosive devices, unmanned aircraft data links and vehicle electronics.

    The jewel in the crown of Army efforts is the Multi-Function EW system that will generate both offensive and defensive effects against command-and-control communications, indirect fire, radar, electro-optics, infrared equipment and infrastructure electronics.

    Tags: ar99, EW, EA, Cyber

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