So Marc, you say, what gives? You’ve been hanging out on the couch for days and not one wonky aircraft post?
Fair enough – give the people what they want.
Jeffrey talks a lot about Iran’s nuclear program here, and for some time now the specter of airstrikes on the country’s nuclear aparatus has been hanging around the policy options party like a creepy guest that people don’t really want to talk to.
One of the problems oft mentioned in planning circles for just an eventuality is that Iran—unlike say Afghanistan or Iraq (2003 Iraq, not 1991 Iraq)—is not as easy a nut to crack from the air.
A recent study from MIT suggested that were the Israeli Air Force to try an Osirak Redux, its success would not necessarily be out of the question—granted only one of its F-15s were shot down trying to take out Natanz, each carrying a BLU-113 (props to Steve Trimble for finding that one).
Yeah, about that..
Wow, sweet new swag. Thanks uncle Vlad!
The Iranians are growing more freaked out by the day and have been steadily enhancing their dated but already layered air defense network—radars, anti aircraft artillery and surface to air missiles—with even more effective tools to combat any incursion.
The technology is older, sure, but the question mark remains how well integrated these tools are. Separately, their effectiveness is diminished. Networked, that’s a different story.
While stealth technology is good, many will say, the 1999 shootdown of an F-117 over Serbia proved that it is fallible. Despite the improvements in 5th Generation stealth, any serious attack on fortified and heavily defended targets will turn on the ability to prosecute EA – electronic attack, or the active suppression and scrambling of electronic air defense radar networks.
Which brings us to the first installment of BUFF Blogging—all things relating to the B-52 Stratofortress.
Once the star of SAC alerts and Kubrick films, the B-52 fleet is still in service but aging rapidly. The Air Force is drawing some down in the years ahead to pay the bills, and its bread and butter mission—nuclear deterrence—appears to be leaving town (more on that another time). So what to do with all those Big Ugly Fat Fellows?
Enter the B-52 “Electro BUFF” standoff jammer.
Perhaps due to an overreliance on stealth, electronic attack was somewhat neglected by senior Pentagon leaders over the last few years.
The Navy flies the only active standoff airborne EA platform in the U.S. military in the form of the EA-6B Prowler (several of which I saw doing their thing during my recent foray to the ‘Stan—for small planes those suckers are LOUD). The Prowler fleet will eventually give way to the EF-18G Growler by 2012, a flying computer on a Super Hornet airframe. Since the Air Force retired their EF-111s a few years back, the service has gone into doggy paddle mode with the EA mission – some say, planning completely fell off the table. While still sending crews to train with Naval aviators, the “roadmap” for a new capability went nowhere as recently as last year.
Some senior military leaders are not all that comfortable with this, despite the vaunted capabilities of both the F-22 and the F-35 – the lack of a long range EA capability in a strategic strike situation is bringing up a new use for an old airframe yet again – the “electro BUFF.”
Back from the dead – barely a year after it was killed off due to requirements creep (Pentagon-speak for programs that start as a simple kitchen knife but then morph into elaborate Leatherman tools) an eager Congress wants to find ways to prevent the old iron from going to the boneyard.
Now called the Core Component Jammer, USAF officials will get the thumbs up or down from OSD within a few weeks to keep on plugging at it. In its 2008 unfunded priorities list, USAF asks Congress for $35 million in airborne electronic attack technical work – most of which will be to continue developing jamming pod technology being used on the Growler program. Senior officials claim they can field a capability by 2015, for no more than $3.7 billion.
“standoff electro.. what in the sam hell you sayin’ son?”
It remains to be seen whether or not The Creep will be kept at bay this time.
If so, Major Kong may ride again… only this time, he’ll be flipping switches on emitters. Yee haw.