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The U.S. Air Force on Monday said it aims to meet electronic warfare needs using next-generation aircraft such as Lockheed Martin Corp's F-35 fighter and a new long-range bomber, rather than older planes like Boeing Co's EA-18G Growler.
Air Combat Command Commander General Herbert Carlisle said the F-35 offered "some pretty impressive" electronic warfare capabilities - consisting of jamming enemy signals to make it easier for warplanes to bomb targets on the ground and other offensive actions - though he gave no details.
Carlisle said a bomber for which a contract will be awarded in coming months, and the associated "family of systems" to be rolled out in coming years, would also give the Air Force new electronic warfare capabilities.
The comments come as Boeing is trying to secure enough orders to keep its F/A-18E/F and EA-18G fighter lines running in St. Louis. Congress is poised to add funding for 12 more jets, but the budget measures have not yet been finalized.
The Navy order, together with a likely Kuwait order for 28 jets, should keep the production line open into 2019.
U.S. Navy officials have said they have enough Boeing EA-18G Growlers to meet their own needs, but that a Navy-led study of the needs of the other services could generate demand for more of the jets for the Air Force and Marine Corps.
However, neither of the services have endorsed that view, and a Navy-led study of the joint needs has not been released.
Carlisle said he expected the Air Force to pick a winner in the bomber competition in July or possibly August.