The U.S. Air Force has been preparing to introduce a new electronic warfare aircraft in recent years, but the program could be jeopardized by the manufacturer of the selected base type, Gulfstream.
Today, electronic warfare is playing an increasingly important role, but aircraft were built for this purpose as early as the second half of the twentieth century. The U.S. Air Force (USAF) still has two models standardized for this purpose in the 1960s and 1980s: the Boeing RC-135 and the EC-130H based on the Hercules transport aircraft. The latter are planned to be replaced by the Gulfstream G550 long-range business type-based EC-37B, the program was launched in 2017. Upgraded on-board systems related to electronic warfare are planned to be ported one-on-one to the G550 base units. Incidentally, it was no accident that this type was chosen: in addition to the fact that America and the army have several military copies, the armed forces of several NATO members have already systematized the converted copies for different purposes. And in Israel, the country’s own industrial giant, the IAI, has carried out a military transformation of the type.
The USAF intends to build its own specimens from brand new machines, which would be ordered directly from Gulfstream. This is what can jeopardize the entire program: recent rumors suggest that Gulfstream wants to shut down the G550 production line and take it out of its offering pretty slowly. This is because several successors or upgrades of the type, which has been on the market since 2003, are already on the market, so it is considered obsolete. For the USAF, there are several alternatives in this case: either they try to reach an agreement with Gulfstream before the company decides to close the production line, or they lay the groundwork for a new generation of electronic warfare fleet by purchasing used copies. A positive aspect for new machines may be that Australia has already contracted four copies last year under the name MC-55A.