Friday, January 21, 2011
Secret U.S. War Plan That Can Disable a Country By Remote Control - Who Needs Nukes
When China’s stealth-fighter prototype took to the air two weeks ago, it intensified what was already aheated debate in Washington over which, and how many, new fighter planes to buy.
Lost in all this noise was the U.S. Navy’s real plan for winning any future air war with China or another big baddie. Rather than going toe-to-toe with J-20s and other enemy jets, the Navy is planning to attack its rivals where they’re most vulnerable: in the electromagnetic spectrum.
The frontline weapon for this electronic war is a new airborne jamming system currently in development. The Next Generation Jammer should allow the Navy to blind the enemy’s radars, disrupt its communications and slip malicious code into computer networks.
The new jammer, and its initial host airplane, the EA-18G Growler (pictured), have quickly become top Pentagon priorities. U.S. regional commanders opted in 2009 to buy more Growlers rather than continue production of the F-22 stealth dogfighter. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced this month that he would accelerate the NGJ’s current five-year-or-so development plan, using cash saved from shutting down redundant command staffs.
Four teams are vying for the jammer contract, including Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems, Raytheon and a pairing of Boeing and New York-based ITT. The Navy expects to gradually eliminate competitors until it’s got one supplier.
When all’s said and done, the resulting program could cost billions of dollars. The result should be what ITT vice president Ed Palacio calls a “highly modular, totally programmable” combination of antennas and processors that can be squeezed into the Growler’s underwing pods, as well as into the F-35 and future drones.
One goal is to simply replace the ancient EA-6B radar-jamming planes flown by the Navy and Marine Corps (with some Air Force exchange pilots). But that’s just the beginning for the NGJ. “Electronic attack system and concept of electronic attack has really evolved over years,” Palacio told Danger Room. “Initially, it primarily was a system to deal with enemy air defenses. But as you start going forward and realize the electromagnetic spectrum does many things … [so] if you build a system that can generate power and modulation over a very broad RF spectrum, it can be used not only in traditional roles, but inmany different roles.”
Besides radar-jamming, the NGJ should allow the Navy to disable remotely detonated, improvised explosive devices — something the EA-6B already does — as well as insert viruses into command networks, a tactic Israel allegedly first used in combat during its 2007 air attacks on a suspected Syrian nuke site.
Hints that air-launched cyberattacks could shut down industrial (and nuclear) operations could explain why the Air Force has been flying stealthy RQ-170 drones near Iran. The NGJ could expand on that apparent capability.
Never mind the F-22 and its admittedly incredible dogfighting skills, or the purported versatility of the newer F-35 in its fighter-bomber role. With the EA-18G and other planes carrying the Next Generation Jammer, the U.S. military will have a weapon capable of doing more than just firing missiles and dropping bombs. Anything that works in the electromagnetic spectrum — and these days, that’s almost everything — will be fair game.