U.S. Air Force leaders, including Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall and the head of Air Combat Command, Gen. Mark Kelly, are emphasizing non-kinetic means to counter advanced integrated air defense systems of potential U.S. adversaries.

According to the Air Force’s fiscal 2024 budget, the service plans to complete the Radio Frequency Electronic Warfare (RF EW) Demonstrator effort over the next year and deliver a “software-centric cognitive electromagnetic warfare-based rapid reprogramming system” to the 350th Spectrum Warfare Wing at Eglin AFB, Fla., “to improve next sortie reprogramming capability against complex emitters,” per the service’s research and development request.

“These deliverables include cognitive electromagnetic warfare applications integrated into an onstation system to support electromagnetic spectrum maneuverability and data analytics and visualization tools to assess system performance for reprogramming,” the service said.

The Air Force wants nearly $13 million for the demonstrator effort in fiscal 2024, nearly $5 million more than appropriated last year, “due to increased emphasis of close collaboration with the 350th Spectrum Warfare Wing for electronic warfare efforts,” the service said.

Technologies under development include cognitive and autonomous EW against multi-spectral threats.

In June 2021, the Air Force stood up the 350th Spectrum Warfare Wing under ACC to focus on offensive EW and consolidate all Air Force electromagnetic spectrum efforts (Defense Daily, June 25, 2021).

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown has said that the service has not focused on EW and has allowed its atrophy 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 Russia and China.

The Air Force and Navy are to create joint expeditionary, land-based electronic attack squadrons with the Air National Guard or Air Force Reserve, while the Navy is to retain its fleet of Boeing [BA] EA-18Gs through fiscal 2027 and transfer expeditionary EA-18G squadrons to the Navy Reserve (Defense Daily, Dec. 14, 2022).

The Air Force wants to implement offboard jamming through the employment of drones, perhaps a version of the recently debuted Collaborative Combat Aircraft concept. In 2021, 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.