Electronic Weapons: October 23, 1999


EW as important as Stealth: A new study by the Scientific Advisory Board recommends that Electronic Warfare (in this context jamming and other techniques designed to heighten aircraft survivability) be treated much like low observables (Stealth). The study is a reaction to the discovery, a 18 months ago, that the U-2s ECM (Electronic Counter Measures) suite did not recognize some SAM (Surface to Air Missile) radars. A key threat was the Iraqi modification to the SA-2, of Vietnam fame, called Tiger Song. The latest downsizing of the military has been driven by a Macnameraish view of cost effectiveness. The air force gave up its jamming plane, the EF-111, and decided to rely on the Navys EA-6B. The EA-6B is a great plane and a great jammer but there aren't enough of them to go around. Contrary to what many people think, even stealth planes need EW support to insure that they are safe. As a result there is a huge demand for jamming and only a few planes, and crews, that can provide it. Unfortunately EW planes are expensive, and potentially vulnerable, and they're not fighters so in peace time they tend to get low priority. Recent experience in Kosovo and other hot spots has shown that even in extremely asymmetric conflicts--those where the US does all the attacking-- the US needs lots of EW to insure that no planes are shot down. The need to avoid losses is driven by the political realities resulting from fighting wars where the US public doesn't view the cause as being worth any loss of American lives as well as the high cost of replacing lost planes. An added factor is that a lost plane can provide critical intelligence information to threat nations. The F-117 lost in Kosovo will probably be a valuable asset for developing anti-stealth tactics.-- Tom Trinko




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