No plans to build F-35 EW variant

The Marine Corps has no plans to pursue an Electronic Warfare variant of the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter, said Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos at a Pentagon roundtable Thursday.

Amos said the AN/APG-81 Active Electronically Scanned Array radar installed on the F-35 already sets the fifth generation fighter apart as an electronic warfare platform.

“The airplane itself … with the AESA radar and sensors and information sharing capability is a pretty significant EW platform right now,” said Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos at a roundtable meeting with reporters in the Pentagon Aug. 23.

Aviation analysts have questioned why the Air Force and Navy have not focused more heavily on modernizing their electronic warfare capabilities. The Navy has started to phase out the EA-6B Prowler with the addition of the FA-18 Growler as the military’s pre-eminent electronic warfare platform to take suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD) missions.

The Growler carries up to five ALQ-99 jamming pods as well as AIM-120 AMRAAM or AGM-88 HARM missiles to attack air defenses. Of course, these ALQ-99s are three decades old and the Navy continues to build its Next Generation Jammer that will fool enemy radars with false returns. Amos said he didn’t see any reason the F-35 couldn’t carry these pods too.

The Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps are having a hard enough time finishing and paying for the development of the F-35 fleet without adding an extra electronic warfare variant. Amos said he didn’t see the need to make the job harder with the budget pressures the Pentagon is already under.

“I don’t see that there’s a need right now to segregate the F-35B aside and then say ok now we’re going to apply an EW capability on this thing so let’s generate a program and pile that cost on top of that. I don’t think there’s a requirement to do that right now,” Amos said.

12 Comments on "No plans to build F-35 EW variant"

  1. As awesome as an EW F35 would be, I have to agree with this decision in light of the budget stresses this nation is under already.

  2. Not to mention that jamming will let them know that something is coming which is kind of antithesis to the whole stealth concept.

  3. A stealth EW…….isnt that like a ninja with a siren.

  4. With LMs sterling record an EW variant ought to be finished at the end of the F35s projected lifespan—if they start now.

  5. It doesn't have to be an F-35 providing the jamming support, but such coverage can still be very beneficial to VLO aircraft in many scenarios. If trying to detect and track an F-22 or F-35 is hard, doing so while a jammer aircraft is causing a lot of interference is much harder.

  6. So the Marine Corps is blatantly going to give up Prowlers and replace them with nothing.

  7. How about a jammer & missile truck to accompany the stealth aircraft, operating on the periphery or moderately inside of the late generation SAM's WEZ from either a high end business aircraft or the B-1R concept?

    If from the business jet concept, either the Falcon 7X or Gulfstream 650 would be an excellent choice and the B-1R would really add a long range Pacific theater friendly asset. It is 2,900 NM one way from Guam to Taiwan and 650 NM one way from the now defunct Clark AFB, Philippines (assuming they would let you operate from there). Any proposed jammer / missile truck will need great range unrefuelled to not use up air refuelling slots (or too many) from the shorter range F-22s, F/A & E/A – 18s, F-35s, etc… which will need them ingress from their relatively distant and safe bases…

  8. Yes, these are all great responses to what was discussed at the round table but letd face it we are in debt up to hair lines. To incorporate the jammer would be rather costly especially if it’s to be done after it hits our fleet it will be in a down status on the front line while the TD to put a jammer in place which is no easy task or quick. Ask yourselves that question do you really want to have a new bird that is strong in other areas be a “turkey” for a long period of time while their in the fight? I think not and as maintainer with years of aviation avionics tech skills under his belt I would say it’s a bad call. If it is to be done do it at depot level to save us the man hours.

  9. Putting in a jammer in no easy task or quick task. Ask yourselves that question do you really want to have a new bird that is strong in other areas be a “turkey” for a long period of time while their in the fight? I think not and as maintainer with years of aviation avionics tech skills under his belt I would say it’s a bad call. If it is to be done do it at depot level to save us the man hours.

  10. The basic F-35 is the EW variant, it's built in. As the Marine Corp. has stated, repeatedly, the F-35 has more capability than the EA-6B, F-18C/D and Harrier; combined. The Navy E/A-18G is replacing the Navy EA-6B as an interim until the F-35 is IOC. Then the E/A-18G wil be upgraded to carry the NGJ in pods as replacements for the "updated, state of the art" AN/ALQ-99 in pods. The NGJ will share the latest EW database that is being used to develop the EW for the F-35. The NGJ can be carried by the F-35 (and other a/c) and empowered by offsetting the integrated antennas and transmitters with the existing onboard EW computers. NGJ pods can be VLO, also (they are only a pod). Growlers are funded separately under their own EA-6B replacement program. The Next Generation Jammer NGJ is funded separately under the AN/ALQ-99 replacement program. The F-35 program is not burdened by expanded scope (creap) but enhanced by these additional (related) programs. The E/A-18G wil make an excellent Missle truck than can integrate tightly with the F-35 (aesa to aesa).

  11. Marcellus Hambrick | August 26, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Reply

    The F-35 is a vastly overrated airplane. It is suppose to be a master of various missions but it is a master of none. Its critics are far more correct about its capabilities than its supporters.

  12. Smart CHOICE! 3 variants is already enough drama for the JSF project.

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