April 29, 2010 (by Ashley M. Wright) - The squadron serving as the sole Department of Defence provider of electronic warfare support for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter activated April 23 in a ceremony at Eglin AFB.
Col. Kevin McElroy, 53rd EWG commander and new commander of the 513th EWS, Lt. Col. Tim Welde, unfurl the squadron flag at the activation ceremony on April 23rd, 2010 at Eglin AFB
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, 53rd Electronic Warfare Group commander. "One team, one fight, one guidon."
The squadron, currently manned by 32 technicians and engineers, will grow to 130 personnel at full strength. The squadron will operate the $300 million United States Reprogramming Laboratory, which tests all aspects of the Joint Strike Fighter's electronic warfare capability. Fifty percent of the total personnel will be Airmen, while the other half will consist of Navy and Marine personnel.
"Without mission data, the F-35 is a very pretty, and some would say very loud, aircraft," Lt. Col. Tim Welde, 513th EWS commander said. "With mission data, the F-35 is pure lethality."
Electronic warfare is "any military action involving the use of electromagnetic and directed energy to control the electromagnetic spectrum or to attack the enemy," according to 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," Colonel Welde said. "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
The 513th EWS possess a history stretching back to World War II as a bombardment group flying B-17s. The unit practiced primarily electronic countermeasures with B-29 aircraft from 1952 until conversion to jet aircraft in 1954. Until 1965, the squadron flew a long series of simulated combat bombardment missions to maintain readiness as a Strategic Air Command unit, testing electronic warfare devices and radar techniques using B-47 and EB-47 aircraft.
The F-35 offers a stark contrast to previous generations of aircraft.
"Classic EW reprogramming was focused on defensive systems, but with the F-35, mission data is required for the offensive capabilities to operate at a new level of execution," Colonel McElroy said. "The mission data does all the hard thinking, and the pilot can then process a variety of more info, making him more lethal."
Colonel Welde will lead the squadron for about 18 months, then Navy officer will rotate in as commander to fulfill the joint structure common throughout the unit.