Electronic Weapons: July 28, 2004

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The U.S. Air Force is working to introduce an electronic-warfare (EW) version of the B-52 bomber as soon as possible. Service officials are reworking current budgets to accelerate the development and fielding of an under-wing electronics pod that can precisely jam enemy radars over long distances. An initial purchase of 12 pods, along with modifying 16 B-52s to carry them, would take place in the 2005 budget, with a follow-on request the following year to buy an additional 24 pods and modify another 60 aircraft. 

Only the B-52 can carry a pod big enough to pack in the electronics gear necessary to complete the mission. B-52s will have to be extensively modified to put out enough power through a wing pylon to do the job. A larger pod also has an advantage, since designers can build larger antennas to more effectively perform jamming and other tasks rather than trying to cram them into a smaller space for a pod designed to be carried by a fighter. Fighters dont have excess electronic power to spare, either. With four crew positions, the B-52 also carries enough people to effectively manage electronic warfare attacks against advanced air defense missile systems being sold and deployed by Russia. 

Since the B-52 presents one of the largest radar returns of any U.S. military aircraft in service, putting high-powered jamming equipment on the plane is a logical step. The B-1B and B-2 were designed from the ground up with lower radar cross-sections for enhanced survivability and they would be much larger targets with external EW pods. 

The new EW pod would be able to deceive enemy radars in several ways, including altering radar return signals to change a penetrating aircrafts speed, range, and location. It would be able to produce false targets and actively generate signals to partially or completely cancel out radar returns. 

EB-52s would also be capable of carrying cruise missiles with high-power microwave (HPM) warheads to scramble surface to air missile system computers. Initially, the aircraft would use HPM versions of the newer, stealthy JASSM missile and the older, battle-tested Conventional Air-Launched Cruise Missile (CALCM). Later, the EB-52 would carry a number of smaller-sized MALD missiles carrying HPM warheads. The baseline MALD missile is roughly 90 inches long, 6 inches in diameter, with a wingspan of 25 inches and weighs in at 89 pounds at launch. Using a miniature turbojet engine, MALD can fly more than 460 kilometers and costs around $30,000 per missile. For comparison, the JASSM missile is 168 inches long, weighs in at 2250 pounds, and costs around $400,000 per unit. It was designed to carry a 1,000 lb warhead to a range of of at least 320 kilometers Doug Mohney

 


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