The future Combat Collaborative Aircraft (CCA) may have a role in future U.S. Air Force jamming missions, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown said on June 22.
“One of the [Air Force] operational imperatives is the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) family of systems, and that family of systems is using Collaborative Combat Aircraft, and with those Collaborative Combat Aircraft there’s a level of autonomy, but there’s a level of modularity as well,” he told a Hudson Institute forum. “That particular lower cost platform could be a sensor, a jammer, a weapon, or weapons carrier. It’s that aspect of how we use those capabilities in combination to be able to provide more aspects in the electromagnetic spectrum to complicate things and complicate targeting for our adversaries.”
The U.S. Navy’s fiscal 2023 budget request proposes the retirement of the service’s 25 ground-based E/A-18G Growlers by Boeing [BA]–aircraft assigned to five squadrons–VAQs 131, 132, 134, 135 and 138 at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash. The Air Force, for its part, looks to make offboard jamming a reality through the employment of drones. Last year, the Air Force and BAE Systems moved the electronic warfare (EW) system of the EC-130H Compass Call onto what is to be the Air Force’s next generation onboard EW plane, the BAE Systems’ EC-37B (Defense Daily, Dec. 2, 2021).
BAE Systems’ Small Adaptive Bank of Electronic Resources (SABER) technology is the backbone of the EC-37B’s operating system and is to facilitate EW upgrades for the aircraft.
The EC-37B is based on the Gulfstream [GD] G550 business jet.
The EC-130H Compass Call has been in service since 1981 to disrupt enemy communications, radar, and navigation systems.
Last June, the Air Force stood up the 350th Spectrum Warfare Wing under Air Combat Command to focus on offensive EW and consolidate all Air Force electromagnetic spectrum efforts (Defense Daily, June 25, 2021).
Brown has said that the service has not focused on EW and has allowed its diminution since Operation Desert Storm in 1991. Brown said that while defensive EW has sufficed against threats from foreign violent extremists, the 350th Spectrum Warfare Wing will be critical in countering the advanced capabilities of Russia and China.
Reports have indicated that Russia has been unable to achieve air superiority during its assault on Ukraine, and Brown said that the Air Force will glean lessons from the Russian performance.
Russian forces “really haven’t looked at suppression of enemy air defenses [in Ukraine], and I would say their air power [was] more closely where they had ground superiority,” Brown said on June 22. “Based on their doctrine, they kind of stuck to where they were overhead where their ground forces were. They wouldn’t venture very far because of what the Ukrainians were able to do with their air defenses. One of the things the Ukrainians were able to do with their air defenses was not to keep them static and stay fairly dynamic, which made it more difficult. If you can’t do dynamic targeting very well, you’re going to have a hard time hitting moving targets. That’s something we do fairly well, and something we’re going to continue working on.”
Precision guided munitions and increased intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance from space will enhance U.S. forces’ dynamic targeting, Brown suggested. The Department of the Air Force and the National Reconnaissance Office have said that they are collaborating on a Space Based Radar to provide ground moving target indication from space and to replace the Northrop Grumman [NOC] Joint STARS aircraft.
Russian forces’ lack of air superiority in Ukraine is “surprising,” given that “the [air defense] systems they’re going against are their own systems,” Brown said. “They should know them fairly well and how to defeat them. It kind of begs the real question for me, ‘How come they don’t understand their own systems and how they might defeat their own systems?'”