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The Dark Art: Airborne EA becomes ‘the new black’ for mission success

EA is increasingly seen as the ‘must have’ capability for aircraft to operate in heavily contested and defended environments. Gareth Jennings explores some of the primary systems being developed and earmarked for the near future, and the latest procurement programmes that have placed EA at the centre of requirements

Modern multirole combat aircraft seek to incorporate the gamut of capability and performance attributes, but each generation has prioritised a particular trait to give it the qualitative edge over its competitors, be it in speed, stealth, manoeuvrability, or something else.

With the advancement over recent years of ground-based air-defence (GBAD) systems and integrated air-defence systems (IADS) among countries and groups that would traditionally not have fielded such advanced capabilities, the feature of choice for today’s generation of combat aircraft designers is electronic warfare (EW) in general and electronic attack (EA) in particular.

The US military’s Joint Publication 3-13.1 Electronic Warfare defines the capability as, “Any action involving the use of the electromagnetic [EM] spectrum or directed energy to control the EM spectrum, attack an enemy, or impede enemy assaults. The purpose of EW is to deny the opponent the advantage of, and ensure friendly unimpeded access to, the EM spectrum. EW can be applied from air, sea, land, and/or space by manned and unmanned systems, and can target humans, communication, radar, or other assets [military and civilian].” EA is one branch of this wider EW capability set.

This is an extract from the full article - available to Janes subscribers here. It was shortlisted in the 2021 Aerospace Media Awards. For more information about Janes interconnected insights and intelligence, see what we do.

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