JED - July 2010 - (Page 38)

By Gàbor László Zord Classic EW reprogramming has historically focused on defensive systems. With the F-35, however, mission data is required for the offensive capabilities to operate at a new level of execution. This short statement, borrowed from Col Kevin J. McElroy, commander of the USAF’s 53rd Electronic Warfare Group, at the activation ceremony of the 513th Electronic Warfare Support squadron, Eglin AFB, FL on April 23 could be used as well to remind us of the path that fighter EW has travelled over the past few decades and the direction that it is taking toward ever greater integration and sensor fusion in the cockpit. OFFENSIVE OR DEFENSIVE? When the first EW equipment on fighters began to see widespread service during the 1960s, these were standalone devices without much connection to other onboard systems (or to each other) aside from the power supply. They were used to alert the crew to the very few types of radar-guided threats existing at that time, like the Fire Can and Fan Song fire-control radars associated with 57-mm S-60 anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) and SA-2 (SA-75 Dvina) surfaceto-air missile (SAM) systems. As operational experience and sophistication increased, a few threat operating modes became discernible as well, though mostly through audio output, with the crew acting as ”signal processor.” Auxiliary receiver channels in the UHF band were used to alert crews to missile uplink signals, which warned them of immediate threats. They used dedicated indica- tors and controllers, which were stuffed into the already cramped fighter cockpits of those days. Jammer pods of the era were tuned preflight to threat frequency bands as dictated by experience, intelligence data coming from higher levels or as a result of pioneering EW testing. The primary tactic for aircrews was to begin jamming at a certain point of their mission, maintain prebriefed flight formations to optimize coverage and, of course, hope for the best. Compared to early US solutions, the Soviet approach exemplified by the standard Sirena-3 warning receiver showed that even much simpler user interfaces (small lights for left/right, high/low threats) could fulfill the goal to the extent it was needed then. For decades this initial defensive functional utilization of EW equipment (mostly radar warning receivers) and the basic requirements regarding threat warning remained the same. However, it must be noted that even the development of early fighter-borne EW systems was not without an offensive intent. In the Southeast-Asia theater, same or similar devices (APR-25/26) were used (a few months before their widespread installation on ordinary fighter-bombers) to equip the first Wild Weasel aircraft dedicated to SAM-hunting. For these aircraft the goal was not how to avoid the threats, but rather how to find them. It is useful to consider this functional approach when investigating the driving forces behind EW integration. When the EW system is used solely in a

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of JED - July 2010

JED - July 2010
The View From Here
From the President
The Monitor
Washington Report
World Report
SIGINT for Special Mission Aircraft
Fighter Aircraft EW: Shifting from Defense to Attack
Technology Survey: Airborne Radar Jammers
EW 101
AOC News
Index of Advertisers
JED Sales Offices
JED Quick Look

JED - July 2010