At the recently concluded exercise Northern Edge 21, the US Air Force (USAF) was able to utilized the Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System (EPAWSS) on the F-15E to allow the F-35A to approach closer to the enemy without having to turn on its radar or electronic attack transmitters, Alert5 says.
During the drill in fact the F-15s exercised the EPAWSS, an electronic warfare suite meant to buy the jet more survivability against modern threats. It was the second wargame outing for the EPAWSS, after a Black Flag exercise in December 2020 at Nellis Air Force Base (AFB), Nevada.
As explained by 1st Lt Savanah Bray, 53rd Wing, in the article Northern Edge 21 achieves operational test advances for Airmen, weapons systems, the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron, Nellis AFB, recently fielded a new Operational Flight Program, Suite 30P06 to the combat air forces’ F-35s. As the new OFP rolls out, Northern Edge allowed operational testers to evaluate how the software functioned in a realistic threat environment to both inform the tactics associated with the software and provide greater feedback to the Combat Air Forces.
“At Northern Edge, we are validating our assumptions that we made in the OFP test process on a grand, realistic scale and incorporating WEPTAC Tactics Improvement Proposals,” said Maj. Scott Portue, 422 TES F-35 pilot.
These Tactics Improvement Proposals, known as “TIPs,” are established at the annual weapons and tactics conference. TIPs tested at Northern Edge by the 422 TES include F-35 emissions control or minimizing the F-35’s emissions to get closer to the adversary, and fourth-to-fifth (and fifth-to-fourth) electronic attack tactics, techniques and procedures.
“As a fifth-gen. asset, we have stealth, so we can physically get closer, but we may not have all the weapons that a fourth-gen. aircraft, like a (F-15) Strike Eagle, does. We’re trying to figure out how we (fourth- and fifth-generation platforms) can benefit each other so that we can get closer to the adversary,” Portue said.
Portue explained that the EPAWSS on an F-15, for example, can benefit an F-35 by allowing them to get closer to the enemy without using their own radar or employing their own EA (electronic attack). Additionally, the F-35 testers accomplished missions in the Gulf of Alaska, exploring maritime tactics and joint interoperability.
“When we talk about fourth- and fifth-gen. integration, we absolutely mean joint integration. Northern Edge is the biggest melting pot that we have as a joint force, in which we can test the most cutting-edge technologies, OFPs (operational flight program) and tactics and see how they match up against a near-peer threat,” Portue said.
“We’re still gathering data” on how the EPAWSS performed, but the initial, “anecdotal” results “look promising,” Lt. Col. John O’Rear of the 84th Test and Evaluation Squadron explained to Air Force Magazine. “In general, it’s looking like it was on track for what we were expecting to see” at Northern Edge.
The exercises pitted about 50 Red team aircraft against a like number of Blue forces, he said. The EPAWSS “was able to integrate in a large force environment with multiple sources of … radio frequency being transmitted across the airspace … It was able to process that.”
In addition to the self-protection features of EPAWSS, a test point was to see if it could help stealthy F-22 and F-35s operating in proximity. The additional jamming “can help the F-35 get closer to the adversary,” O’Rear said. “The more clutter, the more electronic attack you have out there, the more difficult it is for enemy sensors to work through that.” The EPAWSS was able to integrate with “a coordinated electronic attack throughout the force package.”
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force
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