Monday, April 9, 2012
More on the dud-jamming gear Defence wants to buy
As reported earlier, the plan by Australian Defence to put extra dedicated electronic jamming gear on 12 of its new Super Hornets is a bad idea.
Early in the last decade, the U.S. Navy was trying to justify funding for a dedicated jamming version of the Super Hornet known as the "Growler". The U.S. Navy, in an effort to get the next generation jammer (NGJ) as the hardware of choice to put on the Super Hornet (Growler) had to state the obvious: the existing years-old ALQ-99 jamming pods were for the bin. U.S. Navy said in plain language that the ALQ-99 pods were too legacy, couldn't keep up with the emerging threats and were becoming more expensive to maintain.
Guess what happened? When NGJ ran into funding problems, the U.S. Navy was forced to deploy their Growlers with a majority ALQ-99 pod configuration. They sure does look all nice painted up though boss.
Today, NGJ might be ready by 2020 according to a new report on airborne electronic attack (PDF) by the U.S. Government Accounting Office (GAO). Label this a must-read. The report covers a wide range of current and future electronic attack (or jamming) solutions for the U.S. DOD. And to be fair, given the serious post Cold War deskilling of this electronic warfare brain-trust, DOD has done the best they can.
In a rush to save money at the end of the Cold War, DOD and Congress were short-sighted enough to think that all future threats would be broken-down countries with old and poorly maintained Soviet hardware. If anything else came along, well, future "affordable" stealth solutions would fix that for sure. And oh, only the U.S. had the ability to field anything advanced.
Things didn't work out that way.
Of interest in the recent GAO report is more pile-on of the state of affairs with the ALQ-99 pods on the Growler. They are over-kill, inefficient and expensive to maintain for COIN warfare. And again, as already known, they will not be able to keep up with emerging threats.
What is more? Even when the NGJ gets fielded; if it is fielded at the end of the decade, like the ALQ-99, fitted with the Growler, what you have is still an escort-jammer and not a stand-off-jammer (SOJ). True, hardcore SOJ capability for the B-52 was shot down a few years ago. Like other needed programs, money was cut-off and sent to support Operations: USELESS DIRT 1 and 2. In one of the more severe examples of U.S. DOD short-sighted strategy, electronic warfare against advanced threats was not on any key-decision-maker's top-ten list of needs. Years after the end of the Cold War.
The distinction between escort-jamming and stand-off jamming is important when you try and fly a pudgy Super-drag-Growler escort-jammer into the teeth of surface-to-air missile systems that can reach out and touch someone 250 miles away in, a very short amount of time. Any effective power output the Growler hopes to emit won't reach far enough, and, enemy defenses in the shape of upgraded S-300 and S-400 surface-to-air missile systems will have enough sensor and command-control resources to put the Growler at risk of being out-matched and killed.
ALQ-99s will be foolhardy against these threats.To be nice, NGJ on Growler will fare only a little better. If the "I" in integrated air defense systems (IADS) includes enemy aircraft, well, the U.S. Navy is bringing an obsolete carrier air wing to the fight. The USAF; 120 some combat-coded F-22s that may or may not reach depending where the war is at and the F-35; a non-solution.
So back to Australia and the over-optimism of some. Wasting money Defence does not have for a fantasy capability that has no hope of becoming useful is a very bad idea.
Australian Defence needs real engineers that know these things and less vendors knocking on the door trying to sell us obsolete gear. Also, something must be done to stop a Defence/DMO cabal that, when money can't be spent on delayed faulty-project-of-concern high-dollar programs it gets redirected toward impulse buys so-as to make sure annual budget spending evens out.
The Growler upgrade for Australia's existing Super Hornets is one more bad idea for the RAAF.