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  • Electronic Battlefields Assigned, But Management Remains Elusive
    Posted by David A. Fulghum 2:26 PM on Apr 14, 2011

    The U.S. military has embraced electromagnetic warfare, but now the Air Force and Navy have to decide who does what and how they can coordinate the laying on of effects without creating an unmanageable electronic soup.

    Part of the emerging plan is to create a battle management system to organize the nation's electronic defenses on the model of its kinetic air-to-air defenses.

    It would tie together the military with an IP-based network to coordinate electronic effects (like disabling air defenses) and manage the spectrum (perhaps by jamming a foe's secure communications). The alliance also explains why the Navy is packaging its Next Generation Jammer in an underwing pod that ruins the radar cross-section of any low-observable aircraft.

    The Air Force and Navy have divided up the aerial electronic battlefield, to ensure each can validate its spending. The Air Force has invested heavily in stealth and wants to keep those units operationally relevant for the electronic attack mission despite the improving lethality of new air defense systems. The Navy has spent the most on electronic surveillance, attack and warfare. Additionally, it has volunteered for the standoff and escort jamming mission for joint warfighting.

    “To take an externally carried asset like NGJ and clap it on a low observable [LO] airplane, they believe, doesn’t make sense,” says Capt. John Green, The Navy’s airborne electronic attack program officer told Aviation Week at the Navy League’s AirSeaSpace Exposition in Washington.

    The Navy will use its non-stealthy, electronic attack aircraft like the EA-18G Growler for standoff jamming, often for stealthy Air Force strike aircraft and other platforms that must penetrate modern air defenses. It also will use unmanned aircraft like the jamming variant of the Miniature Air Launched Decoy (MALD-J). Navy jamming will use longer periods of jamming to affect their target. That kind of high density jamming can make aircraft vulnerable to home-on-jam missiles.

    The Air Force will slip deeper into enemy air defense rings with its low observable aircraft to deliver cruise missiles and Mark 84-like conventional bomb shapes as well as internal multi-shot payloads that deliver fast pulses of high-power microwaves (HPM) designed as anti-electronics weapons. The fast weapons release capability of stealth aircraft allow the use of short-pulse weapons without giving home-on-jam missiles time to track them. The cruise missile and Mark-84 type weapons are being developed by the Air Armaments Center at Eglin AFB, Fla.

    “Expendables are very important,” Green concurs. “They solve some of those self-protection issues. I certainly see [the Air Forces side of electronic attack] that way. We have done bombing with low observable aircraft, but the window of vulnerability during a mission is very small [with the weapons bay doors open].”

    Vulnerability will still be low for a stealth aircraft that drops a bomb with an HPM warhead or that emits a short duration blast of high energy.

    The operational reality is that there are lots of platforms collecting data, but no common operating picture (COP) or centralized command and control for electronic warfare – as there is for air-to-air combat. This is a problem that Navy and Air Force officials think must be solved now. The joint concept is called Electro-Magnetic Battle Management (EMBM) and includes electronic attack (which includes jamming), electronic surveillance and spectrum management.

    “We want to take electronic warfare where Link 16 [networked communications] took air-to-air battle management,” Green says. “We have to determine the services that are needed and how we ensure they are common across the joint battlefield. The solution, we believe, is an IP-based network with lots of relays and bridging.

    A question that remains unanswered is just how vulnerable NGJ and associated airborne electronic attack (AEA) platforms are themselves vulnerable to electronic attack, asked industry officials assembled for Navy League. Both China and Russia have introduced large phased-array radars into air defense systems. These arrays are also available on the international market.

    Tags: ar99, EW

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