WASHINGTON: Today, somewhere inside the Pentagon, senior Army officers will likely recommend development of new radio-jamming equipment for the post-Afghan War world. After a decade desperately playing defense against radio-detonated IEDs — and, before that, a decade of neglect in the 1990s — Army electronic warfare is taking the offensive again.
With their eyes on future adversaries more technologically sophisticated than the Taliban, commanders want new capabilities to shut down enemy electronic networks and protect their own. It’s a challenge intimately interwoven with but distinct from the higher-profile field of cyber warfare. Hackers infiltrate enemy networks to steal data and infiltrate viruses, while jammers simply shut them down — though that distinction gets blurred by new techniques such as “protocol attacks” that scramble digital radios. Keep reading →
PENTAGON: While the Air Force and the Marines stake their future on a great leap forward to the stealthy F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Navy is taking what one officer called “baby steps” into the future: a careful, incremental upgrade of electronic warfare systems to jam enemy radar instead of just hiding from it. The fleet is moving, slowly but surely, from 1960s-vintage EA-6B Prowlers carrying 1970s-vintage jamming pods — complete with vacuum tubes — to supersonic EA-18G Growlers armed, as of 2020, with a digital Next-Generation Jammer.
Despite persistent rumors the Navy will cut back its F-35 purchase, the service remains officially committed to a carrier-launched version of the F-35, the F-35C. They’re just not counting on the F-35 to penetrate increasingly sophisticated air defenses on its own. Keep reading →
[Corrected 9:35 pm with a note about the EC-130 Compass Call] Is stealth still America’s silver bullet? Or are potential adversaries’ radars getting too smart for US aircraft to keep hiding from them?
That’s literally the trillion-dollar question, because the US military is investing massively in new stealth aircraft. At stake in this debate are not just budgets but America’s continued ability to project power around the world. Keep reading →
WHIDBEY ISLAND, WASHINGTON: “Every two weeks, we get another Growler,” Cmdr. Christopher Middleton said at the Navy’s electronic warfare hub here. The Navy target is to buy 114 EA-18G Growler aircraft. And it’s those Growler aircraft that will be the cutting edge of future Naval strikes against future “anti-access area denial” defenses like those being built by China.
To break through such defenses, the Navy is very publicly working on a joint “AirSea Battle” concept with the Air Force, but the two services have taken starkly different approaches to defeating enemy radar. Keep reading →
NATIONAL HARBOR: As the US shifts its focus from low-tech Taliban “cavemen” to an aggressively modernizing China, the Air Force has launched an urgent effort to find near-term countermeasures against a foe that can jam sensors, hack networks, disrupt communications, and shut down GPS.
“Mostly we’re looking at the next three to five years,” said Randall Walden, the director of information dominance programs under the service’s assistant secretary for acquisition. On that schedule, he said, “you’re not talking about a brand new system. You’re not even talking about cutting a hole in a current plane [to modify it]. You’re talking about pods and concepts.” Keep reading →
LAS VEGAS: Drones rule the skies over Afghanistan. But the next war may be a different story. “We’re fighting cavemen that aren’t shooting back,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Murray. “That’s not where we’re going.”
An enemy more high-tech than the Taliban — which doesn’t take much — could jam or hack the datalinks used to control American drones, or just plain shoot them down. Last year, Iran reportedly brought down a RQ-170 spy drone with a cyber attack. To survive in unfriendly skies, Murray said, unmanned aircraft must be “joint, common, interoperable, and survivable — and we are none of those things right now.” Keep reading →
On July 10, the U.S. Navy released a request for proposals for the first all-new electronic jammer in over 40 years.
It’s about time since the existing ALQ-99 jammer carried on electronic-warfare planes is gradually losing the ability to keep up with joint requirements — not to mention threats. Keep reading →