via The Bellingham Herald
In the skies above Libya, the U.S. Navy has been deploying a small fleet of supersonic EA-18 Growler jets to “jam” Moammar Gadhafi’s ground radar, giving NATO fighters and bombers free rein to strike tanks, communication depots and other strategic targets.
It’s the latest demonstration of “electronic attack” hardware – the “EA” in the Growler’s name. Armies have been waging electronic warfare since World War II, but today’s technology packs a strategic wallop unforeseen even a decade ago.
With foreign adversaries continuing to improve their radar capabilities and air defense networks, and terrorists worldwide using modern consumer electronics to trigger explosives, the United States is spending billions of dollars in a massive effort to respond. These jammers, for instance, spew radio waves and emit other electromagnetic noise to jumble enemy electronic signals.
“War fighters have gone from using physical weapons like spears and knives to chemical weapons such as gunpowder and explosives, to electronics with radio waves and computer codes,” said Peter W. Singer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “It’s a natural evolution in warfare.”
At a time when the defense budget is being eyed for cuts, electronic attack technology is one of the few areas – along with drones and cyber security – in which President Barack Obama wants to boost spending.
The Pentagon is seeking to increase its technology research budget, which includes electronic warfare, to $12.2 billion in fiscal 2012 from $11.8 billion – and that doesn’t include spending in the classified portion of the budget.