The Air Force said Thursday the electronic jammers of the new nuclear B-1B bomber do not meet expectations but branded as "inaccurate" charges the intercontinental aircraft may be unable to do its job.
In a Pentagon statement addressing congressional criticism, the Air Force acknowledged that an additional two years of work costing $146 million would not give the electronic countermeasures system the capability planned. The Air Force has already spent $2.9 billion on the ECM."There has been progress on the ECM system, and it adds significantly to the aircraft's capability. However, that progress has not been satisfactory, and the management of the ECM system development has not met our expectations.
"We are currently working out the most appropriate action in the face of these facts," the Air Force said.
The jammers are used to blind enemy radars, which are constantly improving and changing frequencies, and allow the B-1B to penetrate air defenses.
On Wednesday, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Les Aspin, D-Wis., warned the Air Force to come up with answers about B-1B performance or face the prospect of parking the plane in favor of more effective weapons.
"The bottom line is: Is it really worth it to spend any more money on the B-1B," Aspin said in a letter to Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci.
Aspin said his committee needs to know now what the bomber can do now and what its capability is likely to be after more money is spent to fix its shortcomings.
"Without these answers, we may well be faced with the prospect of parking the B-1B," Aspin said.
The Air Force said, "The disagreement is over the impact on the current and future capability of the B-1B system. The Air Force will continue to respond to inaccurate statements regarding the current capability of the B-1B to carry out its mission."
It said, "A thorough, objective review will confirm the capabilities of the B-1B."
The ECM contractor is Eaton Corp.'s AIL Division of Deer Park, N.Y.
In April, the Air Force awarded AIL two contracts totaling $146 million to fix the jammers, but tests in June showed the ECM would never reach the capability originally planned for 1986.