Major Hofer provides important insights into the tug-of-war between regional commander-in-chiefs and Marine air-ground task-force commanders concerning who shall have primary claim to EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare aircraft. He correctly identifies the main cause of the problem: a failure by defense planners to anticipate either the duration and intensity of overseas commitments or the importance of airborne electronic-warfare assets in prosecuting such contingencies.
There seems to be a growing realization among policymakers that they have mishandled modernization of electronic-warfare capabilities. Prowlers are being brought out of mothballs and refurbished; the next-generation ICAP-III architecture is being funded; an analysis of alternatives has begun to identify the airframe that will replace the Prowler; and an electronic warfare working group has been formed in Congress to give the issue its due. But there is no near-term solution to the shortfalls Major Hofer describes. Those only can be fixed by selecting the right solutions today for tomorrow’s force and then making sure they get funded expeditiously.
In that regard, it isn’t hard to see which airframe choice makes sense among the four he identifies at the end of his essay. V-22 won’t work because it can’t keep up with combat aircraft. Ditto unmanned aerial vehicles. The Joint Strike Fighter can keep up, but its stealth would be compromised by hanging emitters on the outside of the airframe. That leaves the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet as the only viable solution. The services can spend two years analyzing the issue to death, or they can recognize the obvious and get on with implementing it. I vote for moving out on the F/A-18G “Growler” now.
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