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​General Dynamics EF-111A Raven at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. Air Force photo.

​—John A. Tirpak

Twenty years after the Air Force gave up its EF-111 stand-in jamming platform, it is again looking to create an escort electronic warfare aircraft capability, inheriting the mission from the Navy.

Air Combat Command chief Gen. Hawk Carlisle, in a recent interview with Air Force Magazine, said the service is aiming to field a Penetrating Electronic Attack platform in the 2030-2035 timeframe.

“We believe we need not only Penetrating Counter-Air, we also believe we need Penetrating Electronic Attack,” he said of aircraft capable of getting past high-end air defense systems. The platform could be a variant of the PCA aircraft, or “we have something that can go a little faster in that realm,” or it could be an unmanned platform. “So there’s a lot we’re thinking about” with the PEA, he said.  

“The Navy is kind of leaning toward a standoff capability” in electronic warfare, “because of the way the fleet operates,” Carlisle noted. “We, in the Air Force, responsible for theater-level airpower, believe we need penetrating as well and so, my guess is, there will be…a synergy there where the Navy concentrates on a standoff capability, we concentrate on a stand-in capability. And then we marry those two together to make the greatest electronic attack capability we can.”

The Navy has included the Air Force in its EA-6B Prowler and later EA-18 Growler missions since the EF-111 “Spark ‘Vark” was retired, allowing electronic warfare exchange officers to fly on those aircraft in the jamming/escort role.

Carlisle said that after a now-underway service-wide Enterprise Capability Collaboration Team review of multi-domain command and control, it will do one on electronic warfare and flesh out EA plans. The services are also working a joint look at theater electronic attack and electronic warfare launched by Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work last year.