March 6, 2017

Australian Growler Jamming Aircraft to Work With Australian F-35s

Diagram courtesy of bring_it_on's post [of 28th April 2014, 13:17] at Aviation Forum.
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COMMENT

Like SeaWeb there is what I call a Western "AirWeb" in which jamming aircraft,  F-35s, Super Hornets and new production F-22s (available, from the mid 2020s, to those Western allies who bought the F-35) will play principal roles.  

The F-35 (and Western fighter-attack aircraft for the last 50 years) are part of a war winning sensor platform network. The F-35's can surprise enemy aircraft opponents and ground targets even more thoroughly with electronic attack EA-18G Growler and other jamming platforms (above diagram) including use of jet powered UAVs which blind enemy sensors. Satellites, X-37 spacecraft, submarines and UUVs might also form part of the F-35's support network. 

Aerial conditions are no longer WWII "dogfighting" which prized such technical qualities as tight turning and raw speed as well as a pilot's superior hand-eye coordination. From the Arab-Israeli wars (including this 2007 raid) through Vietnam and the Gulf Wars Western jamming networks have been crucial in the reduction of Western losses while winning air campaigns. 

Submarine Matters (originally) in 2007 at http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2007/10/suter-jamming-our-good-guys.html described the Israeli "Suter" jet based jamming which made possible Operation Orchard, an Israeli airstrike against a suspected weapons reactor site in Syria. This Operation played a part in the thinking behind combining aerial jamming with the F-35.

To work with jammers Australia is buying a total of 72 F-35As. Australia's existing Hornets and Super Hornets will also benefit from enhanced EA-18G jamming coverage. F-35s constitute an improved way to utilise the Western "AirWeb" electronic networks now available.

As described below Australia has bought 12 EA-18G Growlers to be based at Amberley, Queensland (map below) from mid 2017. 


EA-18G "Growler's" electronic attack/warfare suite (in orange). (Diagram courtesy RAAF website).
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DEFENCETALK ARTICLE

The Australian Department of Defence (DoD) reported March 1, 2017 via defencetalk.com:

[at the Avalon, Victoria Airshow Australian Defence] Minister Payne said...“The Growler can disrupt military electronic systems, such as radars, to protect personnel and improve situational awareness,”
...“Australia is the only country outside the United States flying the EA-18G Growler...”

The Chief of [the Australian] Air Force, Air Marshal Leo Davies, said the Growler was a vital part of Air Force’s evolution to a future fifth-generation Air Force.

“The EA-18G Growler will operate as part of our networked and integrated force, capable of sharing electronic intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data with other aircraft, as well as with the Army and Navy.

“The Growler is powerful and flexible. It can undertake a range of non-kinetic tasks, ranging from jamming, to blocking radar displays, and suppressing an adversary’s air defence system,” Air Marshal Davies said...” See whole defencetalk.com article.

F-35 basing in Australia. See map larger. (Courtesy Australian DoD via Defense Industry Daily.
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Pete

11 comments:

Josh said...

@Pete:

Some random points of interest.

The USN is looking to increase is EF-18G detachment size to five-six aircraft over the current four, primarily because for both target triangulation and for jamming multi-static radars they want ideally to be able to spread three aircraft across a front during an attack.

The NJG will apparently be a completely new level of capability previously unheard of. Details obviously are not to be found, but minimally the AESA antenna based system is supposed to be have something like ten times the gain. The mid frequency pod is the first project, with a low freq pod the follow on. A high frequency pod might also be built (there is no ALQ-99 equivalent for that band range).

The F-35 itself can use its radar to jam targets in front of it, however this is limited to the frequencies that the radar can operate in (X band?) which makes a dedicated ECM aircraft, or at least pod, necessary.

MALD-J is already in services with the USAF, although I believe the only aircraft cleared for it is the B-52, external racks only. I assume at some point it will be cleared for F-18 use so RAN can carry it.


Cheers,
Josh

Peter Coates said...

Hi Josh

Certainly as the usefulness of the Growler becomes more apparent:
- numbers in the USN will increase with more per Nimitz and Ford carrier
- US Marines and USAF may acquire some
- Israel, Saudi Arabia, UK RAF and Japan may acquire some

Also if Growlers prove a success on the battlefield China, Russia and France may well build or retrofit Growler equivalent jets.

Australia's Air Force (RAAF) may buy more. Noting the RAN have none - no CATOBAR carriers.

Backing up what you indicated about the F-35's electronic capabilities is this fine National Interest article, just out today
http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/pilot-explains-all-the-amazing-reasons-why-the-f-35-stealth-19683?page=show

Regards

Pete

Josh said...

@ Pete:

China just built one:
http://www.combataircraft.net/2016/03/24/chinas-answer-to-the-growler/


Russia at least used to; not sure if the type is still in service but I'd expect so or some equivalent:
https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/russians-reveal-su-24mp-cockpit-22627/


I don't see other powers making their own; they are very specialized aircraft. I suspect RAAF wouldn't have bought any except they already effectively had the type in service anyway and it has most of the capability of a standard fighter/attack version, so it wasn't a logistical stretch to operate the 'G' as well. I'm aware RAN doesn't use CVs. In fact as far as I know their F-35s will be 'A' versions.


The USN is of the opinion that low RCS by itself won't be enough for offensive near peer operations, and that 5th gen fighters will still need support by ECM aircraft. Also its worth pointing out that ECM a/c can perform a wealth of useful tasks in defense of a task force: ESM triangulation (subs, aircraft, etc), search/acquisition jamming, terminal seeker jamming, local communications jamming (snooper fishing boat satcom/satphone), etc. So the USN likely has a host of needs for jamming a/c that the USAF doesn't, which explains why that type isn't being pursued by them (so far). USAF seems to think standoff jamming (Compass Call, Rivet Joint) plus local UAV jamming (MALD-J) can fulfill the role for them, and perhaps for their more limited mission they are right. In any case the NGJ apparently will operate largely as a stand alone system that can be run automatically without additional equipment or power from the carrier aircraft, so the USAF might forgo any dedicated tactical ECM platform and just buy NGJ pods for its F-35s. This seems more likely to me than them adopting a new type with a new parts stream. Perhaps they can 'rent' F-18Gs from the USN the way the EA-6 fleet used to be shared.


Cheers,
Josh

MHalblaub said...

Dear Pete,

Australia should skip the A-35 and move on to an X-47B like drone as bomb truck. The F/A-18 is still sufficient as an interceptor and even faster than the F-35.

Regards,
MHalblaub

Josh said...

@MHalblaub

Perhaps an F-18 in a clean configuration can outrun an F-35 on reheat. However in a clean config the F-35 would be carrying ordnance and have a significantly longer operational range. And in every other measurable way (I'm aware of) the F-35 would be superior. Plus the fly away costs Oz pays for an F-35 would not make it drastically more expensive than a new build F-18. So I don't see any reason the RAAF should change its position on F-35 purchase.

Cheers,
Josh

MHalblaub said...

Dear Josh,
the price for the F-35 is given in most cases without the engine. I also doubt that price per flying hour will be cheaper than for an F/A-18.

The ranges are for normal cruise speed lower than Mach 1. The F-35 can't supercruise. Above Mach 1 the frontal surface rules steps in. Then the fat F-35 really sucks. Due to surface ratio I guess that he F-35 then even has less range than an F/A-18.

My intention was to use the F/A-18 as an interceptor. So only missiles and drop tanks.
The operational infrared systems on a Hornet are better than the one a F-35 may have operational some day.
The next big point is system replacement on F-35. Everything nicely integrated so hell to change anything. Mind also the license issues with Lookheed.

Regards,
MHalblaub

Josh said...

@MHalblaub

The F-35 never the less carries a typical load of ordnance internally where as the F-18 does not. The F-35 can't super cruise* but still can carry a warload in a clean configuration. Carrying bombs, the F-18 loses out combat radius wise, even with drop tanks. That is, F-18 + two bombs and drop tanks < F-35 with two bombs no drop tanks. The F-18 wins only in a completely clean configuration; the F-35 actually carry weapons internally wins compared to F-18 with A2A and drop tanks as far as I know, unless you have figures that state otherwise.

"The operational infrared systems on a Hornet are better than the one a F-35 may have.."

Not at all. There are no operational IR systems on a baseline Hornet that I am aware of, unless you mean an external pod. The F-35 has the DAS 360 degree system and what is basically an internalized sniper pod under the nose. There's also no technical reason an F-35 can't carry a more modern external pod just like an F-18 at the expense of radar cross section.

License issues will be either with Boeing or Lockheed, take your pick. One of those weapons systems will be serving with every non-China/Russia industrialized country and one will be serving only with the RAAF and RAN (and maybe Canada?); take your pick which one gets more upgrades, maintenance, and service life extension programs.

The F-35 program was horribly run and unwisely the Marines were given a say in the final product (STOVL + short plane size for amphib elevators). The latter point is why it kinematicly is basically an F-16. But the US is eating the bill to make it operational despite the problems and it never the less will be revolutionary compared to a 4th gen aircraft. Cost effective for the US? No idea, but if you aren't paying for the dev costs like the US is, then there is absolutely no reason not to get on board. Legacy aircraft are inferior in any metric I can think of outside top speed in a *clean* non combat loaded configuration.

And because I know the conversation will go there, the F-22 is a different animal altogether. It is a dedicated high altitude BVR interceptor that design wise has more in common with the F-106 than modern multi role fighters. Its engine inlets are maximized for 10K+ meters and do not have adjustable ramps, which was done to achieve low RCS, and it has no helmet site for HOB WVR AAMs. More over, trying to bring it back into production would require a redesign to the point of being a brand new aircraft due to dated tech and subcontractors no longer producing its parts/existing. It will never be produced again; its very structure is dated compared to the composites and RAM used in the F-35. Any aircraft produced now would be a brand new aircraft with more modern structure and avionics.


*According to the contractor, a reheat followed my military power will keep an F-35 at Mach 1.2, though I don't particularly trust the contractor in such matters.


Cheers,
Josh

MHalblaub said...

Dear Josh,

the A-35 has one big problem: to late.
Nearly all potential enemies with a capable Air Force will have the equipment to spot this aircraft. So just dropping smart bombs out of the bay won't work. Stand off weapons are required. These things are big and the space inside A-35 bomb bay is limited. The A-35 may gets closer to the target but a little bit longer missile would fit without problems below a wing.

The F-35 as an interceptor just sucks. Pretending they can't see me won't help. The brick has bigger frontal surface than the F-18 with AA missiles. Due to friction this leads to a hot nose clearly visible for IR systems. At some point an interceptor has to turn and run (no ammunition, low on fuel). An F-18 is now in a clean configuration while the F-35 is still a brick. I would recommend JAS 39E with the capability of forward basing on any paved road of less than 1,000 m and a speed of Mach 2+.

The podded IR systems on the F-18 have a smart advantage. They could be exchanged far quicker than an integrated system. License issues are handled quite different by Boeing and Lockheed. ALIS will work nicely for Lockheed.
I didn't get it why such a fuse was made about Australian submarines due to license issues and it's a none issue for aircraft? Saab seems to be very gentle on this topic.

The F-35 will be "serving every non-China/Russia industrialized country"? Nine countries without the US and just two more than F-18. May I mention the Saab Gripen again?

Sorry, I'm not impressed by sensor confusion.

Regards,
MHalblaub.

Josh said...

@Pete

The only potential enemies with a capable airforce that I know of are Russia and China. I'm not sure what equipment you are referring to that can spot low RCS aircraft. Lower frequency radars are capable of doing this, and the Chinese are definitely employing UHF radars on their ships and on land, but there are still limits to how small those sets can be and how accurate they can track a plane's position. The only *airborne* UHF radar I'm aware of is the E-2D. Having a low RCS still complicates detection even if its is only partially effective, and my understanding is that the major expense of the F-35 is the software, not the composite structure. So attacking this aspect of the program doesn't particularly make sense to me. Its also worth pointing out that if the F-35 is arriving too late, the J-20 and PAK-FA are hopeless endeavors...that the Chinese at least seem to be wholeheartedly pursuing. The Russian effort seems to suffer from funding problems.

The F-35 is definitely not an ideal interceptor and its shape was compromised due to the USMC requirement being part of the spec (and I think this was a stupid requirement), no doubt. But you have yet to give me a way the F-18 is superior except clean afterburning speed, which is a pretty limited advantage: I've never seen images of F-18s on combat sorties without drop tanks. If you want a JAS 39E feel free; I haven't looked at the specs and can't comment at this time.

As to the IR pod, again, I don't see why you are saying the F-18 has any advantage - were it necessary, any external pod that an F-18 can carry can be integrated with the F-35. Where as the DAS system is definitely something that cannot be podded. The the internal laser/IR system in the nose is not the most capable system out there and will continue to show its age after its design freeze, but it is fairly capable and allows for low RCS missions.

I am unaware of the licensing issues with Lockheed; you will have to elaborate.

F-18E/F is only in service with the RAAF and USN (sorry I mistyped 'RAN'). I assume you are aware that previous versions of the F-18 are essentially a different aircraft with less than 30% commonality of parts, and I assume you are not proposing replacing RAAFs fighters with F-18C/D (which AFAIK aren't in production any more).

Again, my comments were directed at the F-18 not Grippen. However that said for the RAAF an F-18 buy makes more sense than Grippen to me, since it at least is already in inventory and there's a parts stream.

More broadly, what exactly is the RAAF intercepting? As far as I know the only aircraft that can make it to Australia from China are H-6K, and maybe all of 20 J-15s from Liaoning. Its not clear to me why WVR A2A engagements would drive the RAAFs purchasing.


Cheers,
Josh

Peter Coates said...

Hi Josh [at 10/3/17 1:00 AM]

I haven't commented on this thread for a few days. Been busy writing the Donor Report and articles.

I'm under the impression MHalblaub is the true candidate you are debating with.

Regards

Pete

Josh said...

@Pete

Yes, was addressing MHalblaub; just typed your name out of habit.