Saturday, May 01, 2010

Joint F-35 electronic warfare squadron stands up

by Ashley M. Wright, 96th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) -- The squadron serving as the sole Department of Defense provider of electronic warfare support for the F-35 joint strike fighter activated April 23 in a ceremony here.

Surrounded by artifacts from the history of airpower in the Air Armament Museum, the 513th Electronic Warfare Squadron stood up as a first step toward preparing Airmen, Sailors and Marines with the latest electronic warfare data for all three variants on the 5th generation aircraft.

"We are not supporting only one variant of the F-35, we are supporting all," said Col. Kevin J. McElroy, the 53rd Electronic Warfare Group commander. "One team, one fight, one guidon."

The squadron, currently manned by 32 technicians and engineers, will grow to 130 members at full strength. Squadron members will operate the $300 million United States Reprogramming Laboratory, that tests all aspects of the joint strike fighter's electronic warfare capability. Half of the staff will be Airmen, while the other half will consist of Navy and Marine members.

Electronic warfare is "any military action involving the use of electromagnetic and directed energy to control the electromagnetic spectrum or to attack the enemy," as described in Air Force Doctrine Document 2-5.1. Mission data is the descriptions the aircraft needs to identify both enemies and allies on the battlefield.

The laboratory is still under construction with a projected completion date of summer 2010 and hardware will arrive a year from now, the colonel said. Until that time, the squadron is performing a plethora of tasks as they become the "one-stop organic shop" for F-35 data.

"Our engineers are currently developing threat models and 5th generation mission data for the F-35," said Lt. Col. Tim Welde, the 513th EWS commander. "Our technicians are undergoing maintenance training as well as prepping the lab with power supplies, network connectivity and data storage devices. Next year, when the F-35 hardware is integrated and the lab is fully operational, the squadron will be able to successfully develop, test and deliver the critical mission data for JSF warfighters."