View Full Version : EA-6B retiring may cause lapse in jamming for ground forces

08-03-2009, 05:37 PM
Pressure is mounting on senior military officials to fill a looming gap in electronic warfare aircraft as commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan are finding increased need for tactical jammers.

The gap will materialize in 2012, at the expiration of a longstanding Navy-Air Force agreement that saddled most of the joint force’s electronic warfare duties on the Navy’s EA-6B Prowlers.

Neither service has clear plans for meeting the military’s joint, expeditionary jamming needs beyond 2012.

“There is this gap at 2012 because the Prowlers are going away, and there is nothing replacing them” for the land-based missions, said Ken Miller, director of government and industry affairs for the Association of Old Crows, a nonprofit group in Virginia that advocates for electronic warfare capabilities.

Last year, the Navy began replacing its EA-6B Prowlers with EA-18G Growlers, but current plans call for replacing only the carrier-based squadrons, not the land-based squadrons that the Navy has been providing for joint operations.

The Navy plans to retire all of its Prowlers by 2012.

The Marine Corps’ plans for future electronic attack capability are also unclear, but the Corps plans to fly its small fleet of Prowlers until at least 2017.

A top general illustrated the military’s overall concern in early July. Marine Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, cited the imminent need for jamming capabilities to congressional lawmakers, saying it was one reason for halting the Air Force’s F-22 fighter program and potentially redirecting that money toward electronic attack.

“One of the highest issues of concern from the combatant commanders is our ability to conduct electronic warfare,” Cartwright told a Senate committee July 9. “And we needed to ensure that we were capable of continuing to produce aircraft for the electronic-warfare capability.”
Refining the mission

In Iraq and Afghanistan, electronic attack squadrons have redefined their traditional mission. Rather than jamming enemy air defenses as they did in past conflicts, Prowlers are countering roadside bombs that often use radio-based detonators. Prowlers are also blocking insurgents’ cell phone communications.

One solution is to buy more Boeing-made EA-18Gs, Cartwright said. That would fill the electronic warfare gap while keeping the production line active for the Boeing-made jets, the same airframe as the Navy’s F/A-18F Super Hornet, he said.

Keeping the Boeing production line open is critical, some observers say, in order to give the Navy a back-up fighter jet option if the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter encounters lengthy delays. The Navy could face a significant strike fighter gap if the carrier-based F-35C’s fleet arrival date of 2015 is pushed back.

“That electronic warfare is carried on board the F-18,” Cartwright told the lawmakers. A Navy order to buy more Growlers would help “ensure that we had a hot production line in case there was a problem” with the F-35.

Boeing officials said they could easily ratchet up production to provide the 26 to 30 aircraft needed to equip four or five expeditionary electronic warfare squadrons.

“We have two great product lines — the Growler and the Super Hornet. They flow down the same line; they spend the same amount of time at each work station,” said Bob Gower, Boeing’s program manager for F/A-18 production.

Navy spokesman Lt. Clay Doss declined to comment on budgets beyond fiscal year 2010.

The Air Force has 19 electronic warfare officers assigned to Navy Prowler squadrons, Air Force officials said.

The Air Force also has 14 EC-130 Compass Calls for electronic warfare for the joint force. But Miller said Compass Call “is just old, and we don’t have enough of them.” The Air Force’s Compass Calls are not combat aircraft, so they do not carry High-speed Anti-Radiation Missiles and cannot fly as low as Prowlers and Growlers for aggressive electronic attack, Miller said.

The Air Force’s potential to absorb the full electronic attack mission suffered a setback earlier this year when the service canceled the EB-52 with a core component jammer, Miller said.

“Currently we are looking at a few different options to increase our expeditionary [airborne electronic attack] capabilities,” the Air Force’s Air Combat Command said in a written statement.

“One option being researched is increasing EC-130H sufficiency by converting TC-130s and WC-130s to EC-130, thereby increasing the Compass Call fleet size. Other options being researched are modernizing the EA systems on the Compass Call to increase effectiveness,” the statement said.

Getting the Navy and Air Force to forge a new deal will not be easy at a time of tightening budgets, Miller said.

“I’m sure there will be some negotiations,” he said. “The Navy is not going to sit back and say ‘Oh, we’re going spend X amount of our money to support the Air Force.’”
Corps’ F-35 option?

The Marine Corps is scheduled to fly a small fleet of EA-6B Prowlers until 2017 to provide its electronic attack capability, but it has announced no plans for after that date. Some officials have suggested that the Corps may retrofit the F-35B Lightning II to take care of that mission.

The F-35s could carry the same jamming pods used by Prowlers and Growlers if the services choose to use them for electronic attack. That would require some new wind-tunnel tests and “a fairly extensive software effort” to integrate the jamming system into the current pilot control system, said Capt. John Martins of the F-35 program office.

08-03-2009, 07:12 PM
a shame becuase i love that plane

08-03-2009, 08:05 PM
Got some pics going if anyone wants to add


08-04-2009, 04:46 PM
Well, is it possible to keep it in service for just a little bit longer? At least until the Growler enters service?

08-04-2009, 05:36 PM
goddamn it.