BAE Systems said this week that it “successfully flight tested” the company’s Small Adaptive Bank of Electronic Resources (SABER) technology to move toward a “critical software upgrade” for Air Force fielding of BAE Systems’ EC-37B Compass Call Re-Host aircraft.
The Air Force and BAE Systems conducted 11 SABER flight tests aboard a legacy Lockheed Martin
[LMT] EC-130H Compass Call aircraft from Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz. The EC-37B is based on a General Dynamics [GD] Gulfstream business jet.
“The SABER system is a major technological advance – transitioning from hardware to software-based electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) warfare capability for the U.S. Air Force and its Compass Call weapon system,” per BAE Systems. “The system is built on a suite of software defined radios using an open system architecture and will provide the backbone of the EC-37B’s operating system.”
SABER’s open architecture “will enable the U.S. Air Force to rapidly and proactively respond to emerging enemy threat systems,” Pam Potter, BAE Systems’ director of Electronic Attack Solutions, said in a statement.
“Additional SABER testing in 2021 will focus on simultaneity of engagement capacity, dynamic resource sharing, rapid integration, and operation of multiple additional applications,” per BAE Systems, which is performing SABER work at a company facility in Hudson, N.H.
The BAE Systems’ effort comes as the Air Force prepares to stand up the 350th Spectrum Warfare Wing this spring (Defense Daily, Jan. 27). The wing, which is to be headed by Col. William “Dollar” Young, is to focus on offensive electronic warfare (EW).
Young, who has spoken of the challenges he’s faced as an African-American in the service, commands the 53rd Electronic Warfare Group (EWG) at Eglin AFB, Fla. A graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Air Force Weapons School, Young is an instructor EW officer with more than 2,400 flight hours in the Navy EA-6B and the Air Force B-52 bomber, including 240 combat hours during Operation Enduring Freedom, per his bio. Young also has a doctorate from MIT and four Masters degrees.
Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Q. Brown said in January that the Air Force “has been really not focused on the electromagnetic spectrum” and has “allowed a reduction of offensive airborne electronic attack” since Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
While stealth and defensive countermeasures have functioned well in electronically uncontested battles against violent extremists over the past two decades, “we can no longer solely depend on defensive capability and expect to be successful,” Brown said.
New offensive EW capabilities are to increase U.S. prowess against technologically advanced nations, such as China.
DoD’s primary EW aircraft have been the Navy EA-18G Growler by Boeing [BA] and the Air Force EC-130H Compass Call.
James Faist, the former director of Defense Research and Engineering for Advanced Capabilities, said last June that his office was focusing on EW dominance as “a many-on-many offensive capability viable in highly contested environments” (Defense Daily, June 22, 2020). That work was to feed off related work on artificial intelligence, autonomy, cyber systems, fully networked C3, and quantum capabilities for resilient Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT)–much of it reliant on Global Positioning System satellites.
“We’re planning on standing up a Spectrum Warfare Wing to enable us to work our fielded forces to continually contest the adversary and look at how we look at the functionalities of our C4I systems and our kill chains and our logistics,” Brown said in January of the Air Force EW effort. “At the same time, we’re looking at how we speed up from the detection to a maneuver and fire in the electromagnetic spectrum. This is a good start, but it’s not enough, particularly when I feel that we may have been asleep at the wheel for the past 25 or 30 years. We have a long way to go, particularly when you think about great power competition and our adversaries. They use information and the electromagnetic spectrum to their advantage.”