Monday, August 15, 2005

General Jumper's Legacy

US Air Force (USAF) Chief of Staff General John P. Jumper will retire after 39 years of service. His effective date of retirement will be November 1, 2005. General Jumper's replacement will be General T. Michael Moseley, currently serving as Air Force vice chief of staff. This is a good moment to consider one of the most interesting of General Jumper's accomplishments during his tenure as USAF chief of staff, the reclassification of the electronic warfare officer (EWO).

"The AF/XO formed an Air Force-wide task force that evaluated the requirements for future aviators to support our operational missions," General Jumper wrote in a May 28, 2002, memo. "In line with the competencies required of this aviator, we are redesignating the Nav/EWO as a Weapon Systems Officer...The cornerstone of this initiative is a redesigned flight and ground training pipeline which will produce an aviator skilled in advanced navigation systems, electronic warfare, weapons employment, and able to operate the complex systems so critical to the Air Force mission."

General Jumper cited "new weapon systems that take advantage of emerging technologies" as spurring a rethinking of the role of the navigator. This is really not so surprising. General Jumper has been quoted elsewhere as saying that the definition of electronic warfare, for him, encompassed those technologies that help put a round on the target. This comment was in the context of the Airborne Electronic Attack Analysis of Alternatives discussion about future electronic attack platforms (see AEA AOA Charts Future Direction for Airborne Electronic Attack, I Will Be Your Escort, and The Hornet's Sting). It is worth mentioning a few of the key points contained in a position paper on the Future Nav/EWO that accompanied General Jumper's memo:
  • Today's Joint Specialized Undergraduate Navigator Training (JSUNT) pipeline produces navigators, electronic-warfare officers (EWOs), and weapons-system officers (WSOs) for specific flying roles allowing little flexibility to cross-flow to other flying duties. The future Nav/EWO needs the skills of all three to provide the Air Force with the flexibility to meet future needs.
  • All future WSOs will receive EW training common to all aircraft prior to aircraft assignment. Individuals assigned to specific EWO positions will be given specialized EW training specific to their assignment. This concept will enable WSOs to cross-flow to other weapon systems if needed by attending a short conversion course tailored to individual requirements based on current qualifications and follow-on assignment.
  • With a solid aviation background, the future WSO will be capable of current Nav/EWO/WSO duties and make him the logical choice to operate the UAV, airborne laser (ABL), and future jamming platforms. Highly trained in mission-planning skills, advanced communications, EW, and mission systems, the future WSO will be valuable in and out of the cockpit.
  • As the UAV program continues to expand, rated requirements for UAV operators will increase. Being an expert in weapons employment, SEAD/DEAD, and datalink systems, plus having a full understanding of ATO execution and rules of engagement, the experienced future Nav/EWO will be the logical candidate to operate and command UAV units.

The universe of electronic warfare (EW) is expanding. This is not necessarily evident to orthodox thinkers in a community that tends to see EW as a finite universe of platform protection, electronic attack, and, if the stars are aligned properly, electronic intelligence. This is not to say that there is no debate in the industry, or that some prominent companies are not trying to reinvent themselves as integrators of systems for situational awareness and targeting that also perform EW functions. But there are many who do not want to believe that the Black Box EW Age is over.

The integration and amalgamation of equipment and personnel historically separated into discrete functions is the way of the future. It would seem that the EW community should expand to include the practitioners of the all of the duties defined for the WSO and his colleagues in the other services, at home and internationally. Certainly, this is the opinion of the USAF's far-sighted outgoing chief of staff.

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