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  • Expect More Funding for Electronic Warfare Revitalization
    Posted by David A. Fulghum 1:17 PM on Apr 21, 2011

    Arresting the 20-year slump in U.S. domination of the electromagnetic battlefield has become a major defense concern for the Obama administration.    

    While the White House is looking for cuts in defense spending, it has chosen electronic warfare as one of the few areas expected to receive a spending boost, says Frank Kendall, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition and technology.

    “We’ve not invested in the EW side of the house recently as we [should] be inclined to do,” Kendall says. “I would say it will get increased emphasis as our focus shifts [to squeezing more costs out of the defense budget].”

    The retirement of the EF-111 in 1998 and shifting EW responsibilities to the Navy was a piece of the equation, but he is unsure whether it was the dominant factor, he says.

    “We used to [be] much more competitive in the [operational] EW environment than we have been in the last decade or two,” Kendall says. “Our capabilities and the degree to which we are ahead of the [threat] power curve has atrophied . We have to take a look at that and get our strength back.”

    “I think we’re starting at this point to revitalize that field,” Kendall says. “I would say it will get increased emphasis as our focus shifts” from building new systems to getting more out of those that already exist.

    The plan to resuscitate EW comes as the U.S. has arrived at the intersection of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), directed energy, cyberoperations and the need for electromagnetic battlefield management (EMBM). The electronic pollution in Baghdad, for example, produced an environment where turning on a new piece of equipment nearly always jammed something else. In Afghanistan, the electronic management issue is better, but still a problem.

    “We’ve gotten much better at electronic de-confliction since we started operations in Baghdad in 2003,” Lt. Gen. Dave Deptula, retired chief of U.S. Air Force intelligence and ISR. Moreover, “with cyber being part of the planning process, there needs to be de-confliction with organizations capitalizing on operations in the cyberdomain. We tended not to do that kind of integration in the past. As a result, people were [electronically] stepping on one another. It was less bad when we did the buildup in Afghanistan.”

    The Air Force agrees with the concept of adapting existing aerospace systems by linking them in a way that creates new effects that it wants to achieve and that capitalizes on integrating the resident technologies carried on a single platform. This leads the services away from traditional force packaging of large numbers of aircraft and reduces the need for many specialized platforms.

    “With low-observable, fifth-generation aircraft carrying highly capable ISR, you can do things we’ve never been able to do before such as putting out a network of aircraft so that if you lose a percentage of them, the rest of the force maintains its effectiveness,” Deptula says. “As we normalize cyberoperations as part of a warfighter commander’s toolbox – and get away from central control only by U.S. Central Command – we’ll be able to expand on some of these technologies that are available to us.”

    Tags: ar99, EW, budget

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