How the Air Force meets the challenges of electronic warfare – FCW

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Defense

How the Air Force meets the challenges of electronic warfare

The Air Force is on high alert for threats to the electromagnetic spectrum. But extensive system updates pose a risk.

“If we lose the war in the spectrum, we lose the war in the air and we lose it quickly,” said General Mark Kelly, commander of Air Combat Command, speaking to the Air Force Association’s Air, Space, and Cyber ​​conference on September 22, noting that a peer-to-peer fight would engage frequencies across the spectrum.

Kelly’s comments come a month after Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin signed the classified electromagnetic spectrum strategy implementation plan released last year.

The Air Force in recent years has made organizational changes to increase the importance of electronic warfare, including relocating the Air Force Spectrum Management Office to its branch of intelligence, surveillance, and military operations. reconnaissance and cyber effects (A2 / 6) under the command of the lieutenant general. Mary O’Brien. This branch will also soon be home to the Air Force’s EMS branch in October, O’Brien said on September 22.

“This is key ground. We need to connect our joint force,” Kelly said during his Air Force Fighter Roadmap presentation, “because if the adversary can break our network, or if we can never network, it can break our blue chains of destruction and potentially break our strength. “

Kelly told reporters on September 22 that electronic warfare upgrades, such as the Eagle Passive Active Warning Survival System, were a “major surgery” that could put the F-15s out of service for several months. .

“This system requires a significant amount of energy and cooling to be removed from the motors to power it,” Kelly said. “The number of panels and the amount of plumbing they take out of this plane to get their hands where they need to go is major surgery.”

The key to keeping pace with EMS threats, according to Gerald Gerace, Leidos chief scientist for its electronic warfare division, is to develop electronic warfare systems faster, much like Apple does with the iPhone.

“Which iPhones are they so far? … How many years does it take to release a new EW system? I’ve worked on systems for 10 years that don’t go live. So we have to be capable of working on those commercial timescales, ”Gerace said during a Sept. 21 panel on electromagnetic warfare.

“You have to develop an architecture and a system so that the people who develop the applications don’t need to know all of these details,” said Gerace.

Kelly told reporters that while he was concerned about the “capacity toll” that EW upgrades can entail, the bigger concern is not making the necessary upgrades and modifications.

“If we’re going to push a penetrating bomber, penetrating fighter, penetrating ISR, penetrating munition,” Kelly said, “they better be prepared to enter a multispectral environment so that they can detect and navigate around this EMS of very, very low frequencies to very, very high frequencies. “

About the Author

Lauren C. Williams is a senior editor for FCW and Defense Systems, covering defense and cybersecurity.

Prior to joining FCW, Williams was a tech reporter for ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In previous positions, Williams has covered healthcare, politics and crime for various publications, including the Seattle Times.

Williams holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor’s degree in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be contacted at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

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