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Posted: 9/9/2005 9:14:13 PM EDT
Revolutionizing Electronic Warfare
JSF Will Combine Strike, Jamming, Intelligence


By MICHAEL FABEY
August 23, 2005


The U.S. Marine Corps wants its F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) to be more than an affordable replacement for the Harrier close-air-support plane; it wants the next-generation aircraft to jam the cell phones that trigger roadside bombs.

“For about the past six months, the Marines have been coming to us and asking if there was anything the JSF could do to support the guys on the ground, to shut down a communications system,” said David Jeffreys, a program manager with F-35 maker Lockheed Martin.

And in February, the Marines hired Penn State University to study how the JSF might handle other forms of electronic warfare (EW). The Corps currently relies on the decades-old EA-6B Prowler, which is slated to retire in a decade or so.

“Given our part in the Electronic Attack role and the aging of the EA-6B, we must assess the possibilities of the F-35 taking on an electronic attack mission,” said the February Marine document that authorized the study.

The Marine Corps, which intends to buy up to 600 F-35s, is hardly the only JSF customer that is intrigued by combining strike and electronic warfare roles in a single plane.

“We have discussed electronic attack with every customer, and every single one of them said, ‘We want more of that,’. ” said Jeffreys, who manages JSF upgrades for Lockheed Martin.

The JSF is slated to be produced in the thousands for the U.S. Air Force, Navy, Marines and the British Royal Navy, and to be offered to other countries as well. The plane’s potential as a digital killer blurs the traditional line between platforms that collect aerial electronic intelligence and those that act on it. A plane that drops precision munitions may also sever analog and digital links in an enemy network: between troops, between anti-aircraft missiles and their guidance radar, between an insurgent’s cell phone and a roadside bomb.

Some countries, such as Israel, have long loaded jamming pods onto their strike aircraft because they could not afford dedicated planes to do the job. Even at the Pentagon, which has long used the Prowler and other specialized platforms, the appeal of a do-it-all aircraft may be growing because of rumors of program cuts and belt-tightening in the ongoing Quadrennial Defense Review.

Improving EW

The Pentagon has seen the need for a better electronic warfare aircraft since at least 2000, when its Kosovo after-action report to Congress said that NATO forces had difficulty targeting missile sites. A separate report noted that the problems included interference from the Prowlers’ jammers with friendly targeting devices. The report to Congress launched a classified study of electronic warfare improvements, which in 2001 identified the JSF and its cousin, the F/A-22 Raptor, as EW candidates. Lockheed is building the F/A-22 for the Air Force.

Marine officials say they won’t talk about their specific electronic warfare needs until their study is finished.

The service has relied on Prowlers for traditional jamming along with electronic deception — a subtler form of EW that involves mimicking, redirecting or slightly altering an adversary’s signals to confuse his weapons and distort his view of the battle zone.

“What they can do is get into the enemy’s radar and alter it without the bad guys even knowing,” one analyst said. “It’s like that line in the movie, ‘The Sting’: ‘The best con is when they don’t even know they’ve been conned.’”

The Air Force, which abandoned tactical electronic warfare when it retired its EF-111s a decade ago, may soon add an electronic warfare suite to its B-52 bombers. But officials say they are taking a good look at the EW and intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance capabilities of the JSF and the F/A-22.

The Navy seems less interested in the do-it-all bandwagon. The service is developing and in 2009 will field an electronic-attack version of its F/A-18F Super Hornet, the so-called Growler. It takes a dedicated plane to do the job, said James Smith, who is leading the Navy’s E/A-18G analysis and integration team.

“The goal of a dedicated electronic warfare aircraft is versatility with different capabilities across a very wide frequency spectrum,” and multiple-use systems have a limited capability, Smith said.

Enter the AESA

Some of the JSF’s electronic-attack capability resides in the phased-array radar in its nose. Unlike a traditional radar with a moving dish antenna, the JSF’s Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar includes myriad individual, solid-state emitter-receivers. This allows the radar to keep tabs on multiple objects, and to focus energy on electromagnetically sensitive targets. This gives a factory-standard AESA-equipped plane some EW capability before other EW gear is installed.

Boeing certainly sees the value of AESA radar; the firm is retrofitting one on Super Hornets. But the company’s AESA program manager says there are limits to the radar’s electronic-attack abilities. For one thing, it can only zap electronic systems within a limited frequency range. “We don’t get out of the bandwidth where the radar operates,” said Roger Besancenez.

Besancenez dismissed one-jet-does-it-all claims as marketing tools — though his company is looking to improve the Super Hornets’ data links, he said.

But there are plenty of other people interested in the EW capabilities of the JSF and Raptor, among them defense analysts, industry officials and several dozen U.S. lawmakers who belong to the Electronic Warfare Working Group. They point to the sensors embedded in the JSF’s fuselage and wings, which give the JSF an innate ability to gather electronic intelligence (ELINT).

“Electronic warfare really starts with ELINT,” said Congressional Research Service analyst Christopher Bolkcom.

Moreover, the jet is built with the ability to distribute its information.

“Each one of them out there becomes a flying router,” said Lilian Goleniewski, the author of “Telecommunications Essentials,” a telecom industry bible and a former consultant to the military on telecom issues. Planes with that kind of data link capability are becoming “the Internet in the sky.”

“It’s really an all-singing and all-dancing plane,” said Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis and military jet expert at the Teal Group.

Link Posted: 9/9/2005 9:16:29 PM EDT
"Can you hear me now?"

No. As a matter of fact I cant.
Link Posted: 9/9/2005 9:20:54 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Specop_007:
"Can you hear me now?"

No. As a matter of fact I cant.



"I think the phone is fried."
"Yeah...Semper Fried!"
Link Posted: 9/9/2005 9:26:43 PM EDT
Can I get a Marine plane to loiter over the movie theater?
Link Posted: 9/9/2005 9:29:00 PM EDT

Originally Posted By FLAL1A:
Can I get a Marine plane to loiter over the movie theater?





amen to that.
Link Posted: 9/9/2005 9:31:01 PM EDT
Having to use a $30 million dollar plane to destroy a $30 cell phone seems odd, but anything that will reduce the number of these bombings is a big plus. That would greatly reduce it. Too bad we don't have the F-35 now.
Link Posted: 9/9/2005 9:31:16 PM EDT
The USMC has asked us to look at a Harrier variant to serve until the F-35 is ready. I've heard they want the afterburning nozzles we worked on in the mid 80's, but when reality strikes, my guess is that it will be an AV-8B with some structural mods for improved fatigue life.
Link Posted: 9/9/2005 9:32:32 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Charging_Handle:
Having to use a $30 million dollar plane to destroy a $30 cell phone seems odd, but anything that will reduce the number of these bombings is a big plus. That would greatly reduce it. Too bad we don't have the F-35 now.



Not really any different than using an F-4 to blow up a $30 san pan or jungle hootch.
Link Posted: 9/9/2005 9:34:54 PM EDT
For long term jamming why not use the Patriot or Predator systems with the appropriate pod attached? I think that would make more sense than deploying a strike/sttack aircraft for something that is best suited for a drone.
Link Posted: 9/9/2005 9:37:14 PM EDT
I'm worried about pilot overload. ESW's typically got a dedicated staff - the EA-6 has a crew of 4. Now you're asking one guy to take more and more of the 4-man crew's duties?
Link Posted: 9/9/2005 9:39:12 PM EDT
How about jammers on the damn trucks?

If your going to use a jammer on the whole city, then just turn off the stupid cell towers.
Link Posted: 9/9/2005 9:41:27 PM EDT

Originally Posted By cmoth:
For long term jamming why not use the Patriot or Predator systems with the appropriate pod attached? I think that would make more sense than deploying a strike/sttack aircraft for something that is best suited for a drone.



OTOH, think of the satisfaction a young Marine Pilot would get from knowing that he had personally allowed me to watch "Barbershop II" (a very, very funny movie) without interruption. I know that an Air Force Warrant Officer controlling a Predator would feel a certain satisfaction knowing that his "team" had allowed me to watch a movie in peace, but it wouldn't be the same as the one-to-one connection that that young Marine warrior would have with me, the middle-aged, taxpaying beneficiary of his personal effort. Plus, he could strafe anybody who approached me in the parking lot.
Link Posted: 9/9/2005 9:41:57 PM EDT

Originally Posted By cmoth:
For long term jamming why not use the Patriot or Predator systems with the appropriate pod attached? I think that would make more sense than deploying a strike/sttack aircraft for something that is best suited for a drone.



+1 Drones are the way to go.
Link Posted: 9/16/2005 11:13:37 AM EDT

Originally Posted By mmx1:
I'm worried about pilot overload. ESW's typically got a dedicated staff - the EA-6 has a crew of 4. Now you're asking one guy to take more and more of the 4-man crew's duties?



With the ICAP III the EA-6B only needs a crew of three.
If the EA-6B was configured differently they would only need a crew of two.
Link Posted: 9/16/2005 11:18:33 AM EDT
Well, seeing as the majority of VBEIDs and IEDs in Iraq are triggered by a

pager/cell-phone based mechanism, unless it is a Syrian made IR trigger, this WOULD be a very usefull

tool.
Link Posted: 9/16/2005 11:24:33 AM EDT

“Each one of them out there becomes a flying router,” said Lilian Goleniewski, the author of “Telecommunications Essentials,” a telecom industry bible and a former consultant to the military on telecom issues. Planes with that kind of data link capability are becoming “the Internet in the sky.”



I hope they don't forget to change the default ssid and set a strong password. I can see it now.....

Jarheads flying over my house and my laptop keeps popping up a window that says, "New network found: linksys".



“It’s really an all-singing and all-dancing plane,” said Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis and military jet expert at the Teal Group.


[fightclub] What about the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world? [/fightclub]
Link Posted: 9/16/2005 11:25:40 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Charging_Handle:
Having to use a $30 million dollar plane to destroy a $30 cell phone seems odd, but anything that will reduce the number of these bombings is a big plus. That would greatly reduce it. Too bad we don't have the F-35 now.



Also if you can cripple communications you blind the enemy. A important tool in operation in a place like Iraq were the cell phone is used as a early warning system by terroist.
Link Posted: 9/16/2005 11:26:40 AM EDT

Originally Posted By FLAL1A:
it wouldn't be the same as the one-to-one connection that that young Marine warrior would have with me, the middle-aged, taxpaying beneficiary of his personal effort. Plus, he could strafe anybody who approached me in the parking lot.




"Suh? Suh, excyooose me, suh, but can yoo spare a..."


*rataatAtAtaTAtatAtAtatattata­!!!@*
Link Posted: 9/16/2005 1:51:25 PM EDT

Originally Posted By mmx1:
I'm worried about pilot overload. ESW's typically got a dedicated staff - the EA-6 has a crew of 4. Now you're asking one guy to take more and more of the 4-man crew's duties?




Think how old the EA-6 is though.

Today the computer takes up a lot of that workload.
Link Posted: 9/16/2005 1:56:55 PM EDT
wouldn't it make more sense to mount a jamming device on a truck or Humvee? It's perfectly clear to me that it would be best to have it right in the midst of the troops it is to protect.
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