Cognitive EW, today in its infancy, may one day help justify the Joint Strike Fighter’s enormous cost.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the most expensive weapons program ever, won’t justify its price tag by outmaneuvering other jets (it can’t), flying particularly fast, or even by carrying munitions in a stealthy bomb bay. Instead, the U.S. military is banking on an emerging technology called cognitive electronic warfare to give the jet an almost-living ability to sniff out new hard-to-detect air defenses and invent ways to foil them on the fly.
While the specifics of the jet’s electronic warfare, or EW, package remain opaque, scientists, program watchers and military leaders close to the program say it will be key to the jet’s evolution and its survival against the future’s most advanced airplane-killing technology. In short, cognitive EW is the most important feature on the world’s most sophisticated warplane.
“There are small elements of cognitive EW right now on the F-35, but what we are really looking toward is the future,” Lee Venturino, president and CEO of First Principles, a company that is analyzing the F-35 for the Pentagon, said at a recent Association of Old Crows event in Washington, D.C.“Think of it as a stair-stepper approach. The first step is probably along the ESM [electronic support measures] side. How do I just identify the signals I’ve never seen before?”