The Pentagon is in the midst of an effort to rationalize how it can add non-kinetic weapons, particularly in the fields of electronic attack and cyber war, to its combat aircraft.
This is part of the Defense Department’s attempt to better explain its investments, reuse technology it has already paid for and ensure programs are not duplicated by the military services and other agencies. (AW&ST, Oct. 27, p.40)
Now Boeing has selected BAE Systems to supply a next-generation digital electronic warfare suite for future international versions of the F-15. The system is being proposed to Japan and Saudi Arabia, and will be offered for retrofit to U.S. and export F-15s.
South Korean F-15K (Photo: Boeing)
For the effort, BAE Systems is rolling out its “Boldstroke” initiative (an IR/EW/EA package for new or existing non-stealthy aircraft) and “Xtreme EW” (a system that can be tailored for low-observable aircraft). However, pieces of any of the systems could be used anywhere depending on the mission needs, budget and export-level of the customer.
They’re designed to meet the need to develop rapid technology insertion into low-cost, fast-schedule versions of existing technologies, some of which are not operational or widely available because they were too big, power hungry and expensive. A big selling point will be tailoring a series of baseline electronic backbones in which the digital architecture and hardware will be standard, but the software will be missionized. Another long-term goal is that ultimately the upgrades will be cheap enough to install, use for a few weeks or months, and then throw away.
Electronic warfare systems made a breakthrough when they were expanded for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to include electronic attack. Now BAE Systems’ officials say they’ve developed a program that can expand those key EW capabilities in both existing non-stealthy aircraft and new stealth designs.
While the concept was designed for future and to modify existing U.S. aircraft like the F-15, company officials plan to tailor packages for foreign users that will fit their operational needs, budget and clearances for sensitive U.S. exports.
EW packages are evolving into suites capable of targeting for both kinetic (missiles) and non-kinetic weapons (such as electronic attack, extremely directional and discrete jamming, high power microwave burst, information operations).
A Boldstroke- or Xtreme-EW-equipped aircraft would be able to create combat effects in airborne or ground-based enemy electronics at ranges approaching 200 mi., and provide aircraft with a third layer of offensive capability.