March 23, 2002
The Pentagon has given the US Navy and Air Force until 3 June to agree to a plan to replace the EA-6B airborne jammer aircraft which are being worn out at a fast pace. The plan envisions three systems:
1. A new "stand in" expendable cruise missile jammer that could fly close to enemy air defenses and jam them with relatively little power. This is to be ready by 2009 and maybe by as soon as 2005.
2. A new manned jammer aircraft. While the Air Force says it wants to consider reopening the A-6 bomber production line to build more EA-6Bs, the Navy has already said it wants the F-18G Growler for its new stand-off jammer aircraft, despite this being the most expensive of the available options. Whatever plane is picked must be flying by 2009, when the EA-6Bs will be all but impossible to maintain.
3. A new jammer aircraft with more capability to be ready by 2015. The Air Force wants a jammer variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, but the Pentagon wants to look at a long-endurance high-altitude unmanned drone.--Stephen V Cole