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Musings on the "F-117 Companion"

Ravinoff

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Okay, noticed the TR-3 thread was bumped again, and I was gonna make this a post there, but as it concerns a bit of a broader spectrum than just the (probably fictional) TR-3, I may as well make a thread out of it. I've been doing some thinking on the whole concept of the F-117 Companion and its supposed role of lasing targets for Paveways, and something sort of occurred to me.

What's a role that a stealth aircraft is inherently suited for, where a noticeable capability gap has existed since the early stealth era, but has never been even considered in open literature (that I know of, at least)? Suppression of enemy air defenses. Yeah, the F-4G was around until '96, and the AGM-69 SRAM and AGM-86 ALCM cover similar territory, but think for a moment about the advantages a "Sneaky Weasel" would bring to the table, from the perspective of a Cold War Air Force planner. Sure, those new Rockwell B-1Bs are neat and have a slightly reduced RCS, and the rumor going around is that somebody is working on a real stealth bomber, but the SAC workhorse is still the good old B-52. But the Soviets are getting damn good at building SAMs, and it's starting to look like they could even shoot down the new ALCM standoff missiles (though by pure weight of numbers the cruise missile bus still should work).

And then the eureka moment hits. This new stealth thing...what if we built a low-flying stealth penetrator that's nearly invisible to radar and loaded to the gills with Shrikes/Standard ARMs/HARMs and even SRAMs? Send them in ahead of the B-52 fleet who'll be launching hordes of decoys, and as soon as the Soviet radars start lighting up the Sneaky Weasels blast them off the map. So a few of these get built, budgets being what they are and the political turbulence of the time. Fast forward ten years or so, and they're sitting around mothballed since the war everyone planned for never happened, but it's starting to look like this Saddam Hussein guy is going to be trouble. The Iraqis are impressive on paper and we don't know how this is going to play out, so hell, dust off those Sneaky Weasel prototypes and we'll rig them with PAVE SPIKE pods to lase priority targets for the heavy hitters.

Thoughts/ideas/reasons I'm an idiot and this wouldn't work, anyone?
 

Ravinoff

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Just a quick note, the F-117A had a laser designator in the nose of the aircraft.

If a "Companion" did exist, it would have more than likely fulfilled an EA role as it's an integral part of SEAD missions.
Lasing targets was the rumor I've always heard, don't know enough about those systems to say whether a secondary low-flying spotter bird would be useful.

And I'm mildly clueless on the acronyms, what's EA? I know EW (which, come to think of it, is also a good possibility for a Companion), but EA doesn't sound familiar.
 

Arjen

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On the other hand, you could simply explain what EA stands for. AYBIU.
 

TsrJoe

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im assuming EA is a not widely used acronym in this context for Electronic Attack
 
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Arjen

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There I was, mistaking it for Environmental Awareness.
 

sferrin

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Never heard it called "EA" either. ECM, ESM, elint, electronic attack, yes. "EA"? No.
 

_Del_

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It's a newish acronym for all the things that used to be covered by EW. Not sure why it has gained traction other than marketing and an institutional need for staff officers to keep rewriting "the book" to show evolutionary progression. I suppose some aspects of current EW capability are indeed closer to an "attack" than simple " counter-measures". But "warfare" seemed to cover this just as well.
 

marauder2048

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It's a newish acronym for all the things that used to be covered by EW.
Things like anti-radiation missiles and directed energy weren't really covered by EW.
 

_Del_

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Even SEAD/DEAD and such is now broadly covered by EW. The new breakdown is Attack, Protection, and Support (sometimes "Support Measures"). It all falls broadly under EW. The buzzword is "dominance" now. So you "Attack"-ing the enemies Electronic systems and suppressing his defenses, you "Protect" your own ability to make war electronically, and "Support" is everything covered in earlier acronyms like ESM, ELINT, etc to provide information. If you do this, you "dominate" EW, or acheive "EM spectral dominance" , or "multi-spectrum dominance" or whatever buzzword is in vogue.
"Attack" to deny the enemy access to the EM spectrum. "Protect" our own ability to use it. "Support" conventional decision-makers with information gathered via the EM spectrum.
You see them in staff work, RFI/RFP, occasional industry comments (and even ads). The only one that is relatively common in the wild is EA, and like EW, it is usually used in the broadest, least precise manner possible.
 

marauder2048

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Even SEAD/DEAD and such is now broadly covered by EW.
Not really since SEAD/DEAD has to cover non-emitters and/or sensors that don't operate in the electromagnetic spectrum.
No one regards an ATACMS attack on a AAA site as EW or EA.

The new breakdown is Attack, Protection, and Support (sometimes "Support Measures").
If by new do you mean at least 25 years old?
 

_Del_

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If by new do you mean at least 25 years old?
If you say so. I just know that despite working in the defense industry, I've only seen it in the past 10 years perhaps, and I haven't seen EA in trade mags and the like until the past five or so. And even now, it is infrequent. I'm not directly involved in EW efforts, but I've also been around. I've never seen EP or ES or ESM in a trade mag or other media that I can recall. I've only seen them in think tank "white papers" and the occasional staff paper or RFI. Conversationally, I don't know anyone who uses those acronyms even when discussing EW.
I'm not an encyclopedia; I can only relate my experience. If you've been using those terms for 25 years, you're ahead of the Del Curve. ;)
 

marauder2048

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FM 34-1 from 1994. There were earlier doctrinal publications on "electronic attack" but it was more along the lines of non-lethal jamming.
 

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