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Air Force aims to improve electronic warfare capabilities

6/20/2008 - WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- Controlling the electromagnetic spectrum to deny or attack an adversary -- that is electronic warfare, and the Air Force is in search of ways to maximize that capability.

Air Force leaders started the Electronic Warfare Life Cycle Management Group to establish a uniform approach to the research, development and evaluation of electronic warfare hardware, software, techniques and capabilities.

Col. Tim Freeman, the group's co-chairman, compared the electronic warfare community to a symphony orchestra.

"For years, Air Force electronic warfare has been like an orchestra warming up, and the (group) will be the conductor that brings it all together," said Colonel Freeman, commander of the 542nd Combat Sustainment Wing at Robins Air Force Base, Ga.

Before the group was established, there was no mechanism to pull together an enterprise view at how the Air Force conducts electronic warfare, he said.

"The result was that people were doing great things, but it was inefficient. In some cases, different organizations were paying different contractors to do the exact same things only because they weren't talking to each other," Colonel Freeman said.

The group's goal is to find commonalities across weapons systems that will allow standardization and interface among electronic warfare programs.

"It's all about aircraft survivability in combat," said Col. Robert Schwarze, chief of electronic warfare and cyber requirements at the Pentagon and co-chair of the warfare management group. "We maintain 56 electronic warfare systems (that use) 34 different computer languages. We thought, 'Hey, that's pretty stupid' and we're trying to make it better."

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, F-22 Raptor and B-1B Lancer are among the aircraft that have specific electronic warfare capabilities, but the Air Force currently can not transfer capabilities across multiple platforms.

If one aircraft type has a tremendous capability against a particular threat, the Air Force has to regenerate that separately for other platforms because no hardware or data standard exists. This requires additional research, manpower and money.

The group has a tiered structure with four echelons that includes all of the Air Force's electronic warfare organizations. The first echelon is the Senior Advisory Group, made up of general officers and senior executive service members, which is the decision-making body of the group.

The second echelon, the Technical Advisory Group, is the advisory and oversight body made up of colonels and senior civil service members. The final two echelons include the Electronic Warfare Product Group Manager, and System and Technique Evaluation Development teams.

"The (group) will help find ways to use the money we have more effectively, eliminate duplication of efforts and streamline processes," Colonel Freeman said. "This is probably the most prolific change in electronic warfare in the Air Force in 30 years. (We're) going to...make decisions that will keep the rest of the fleet, from an electronic warfare perspective, viable in the 21st Century."

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