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May 18, 2007— The Deputy Defense Secretary’s Advisory Working Group (DAWG) may provide the go-ahead soon to develop the Core Component Jammer, the electronic attack system the Air Force would like to field on the B-52 bomber. DOD’s Program Acquisition and Evaluation office will brief the DAWG within the next three weeks on the latest CCJ analysis.

In late 2005, the Air Force opted to kill the B-52 standoff jamming program, which had sprouted too many add-ons, ballooning from $1 billion to $7 billion. Last year, according to Col. Bob Schwarze, Air Staff chief of electronic warfare, service officials “re-scoped the overall requirements in stand-off jamming, and we came up with the CCJ.”

It’s exactly the type of bare bones program USAF wanted in the first place. As Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley said last year, the original idea called for development of interchangeable pods that could fulfill “a very narrow slice of the SOJ requirement.”

Schwarze told the Daily Report in an interview that the USAF General Officers Steering Group, formed specifically to oversee Air Force efforts to support DOD’s Airborne Electronic Attack Review 2006, met weekly for months to iron out the CCJ program. It compiled asset capabilities, schedules, costs, and concept of operations, pouring over various studies, including the 2001 joint service AEA analysis of alternatives, comprising a classified 2,000-page report that concluded that the US military will continue to need a “complete and comprehensive AEA capability” after the Navy retires the joint use EA-6B, according to an unclassified summary. Its principle aim was to compare the cost effectiveness of proposed systems. (For an AEA evolution discussion, read “Where Next With Electronic Attack?”)

The Air Force also completed its own AEA analysis and consulted AEA analyses done by the independent Institute for Defense Analyses. Schwarze said that other studies are still ongoing, but he believes the service now has enough data to satisfy the DAWG. The Air Force presented the CCJ case last fall but was turned back because the DAWG wanted to ensure “that OSD had reviewed all capabilities to include any [restricted] special access programs that may be relevant to the AEA mission,” explained Schwarze.

In March testimony, senior Air Force officials said that the CCJ “refocused the B-52 SOJ program using fewer assets and more tightly focused radio frequency (RF) spectrum receivers and jammers.” They also said that USAF had leveraged receiver technology from the Navy’s production of an EA-18G Growler to replace the Prowler. However, they noted that starting the CCJ program would depend upon maturation of systems architecture and low/mid-band jammer technology.

In its 2008 unfunded priorities list, USAF listed $35 million to pursue AEA technical maturation, including roughly $30 million for the CCJ and $5.5 million for common AEA risk reduction activities, said Schwarze.

Schwarze calls the CCJ “more reality-based” than the original B-52 SOJ concept, but he believes the BUFF is still an ideal platform. Service officials also have considered using the F-15E.

Estimated cost for the CCJ standoff jamming capability runs between $2.8 billion and $3.7 billion over the life of the program for 24 sets of pods. If the service gets the green light from OSD and gets its UPL funding, Schwarze believes it could begin development in 2009 or 2010, making it possible to field eight sets of CCJ pods by 2015.

And, therein lies a problem. As members of the House Armed Services air-land panel pointed out earlier this year, there is a standoff AEA gap between 2012, the expected retirement date for the joint use EA-6B Prowlers, and 2015 when the USAF CCJ would come along. In testimony earlier this year, Navy officials acknowledged that the EA-18G “is not the perfect solution” to fill that gap. There’s a joint process in play now to assess just how much risk the services can afford.