Eglin AFB set to be home of new electromagnetic warfare wing
EGLIN AFB — Pending the results of an environmental assessment, Eglin Air Force Base will be the home of the Air Force's newest wing, a first-of-its-kind wing focusing on the electromagnetic spectrum.
The new wing could bring more than 300 new personnel to the base.
The 350th Spectrum Warfare Wing (350th SWW) was activated — "stood up" in military language — on Friday, and Eglin is the sole candidate as the preferred site for the wing, a spokesperson for the Air Force's Air Combat Command (ACC), under which the wing will operate, said Monday.
The 350th SWW will provide additional focus to the Air Force's efforts in electromagnetic warfare. Broadly speaking, electromagnetic warfare denotes the ability to use the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) — radio, infrared and radar waves and signals — to sense what may be occurring in that realm, to protect military and other assets operating in that arena and to use the spectrum as a communications tool.
Additionally, military work in the electromagnetic spectrum can keep adversaries from either disrupting those signals or using them to their advantage.
Because Eglin already has in place what the ACC spokesperson called a "unique electronic warfare reprogramming infrastructure," establishing the 350th SWW at the installation "will only require an increase of roughly 350 personnel." Those additional people will bring the total number of electronic warfare personnel at Eglin to slightly more than 1,600, according to the spokesperson.
The 350th SWW is responsible for delivering EMS capabilities to the United States and a number of foreign partner nations, and also has responsibilities for electromagnetic warfare modeling, simulation and assessments. A Monday news release from Air Combat Command noted that the 350th SWW will "help the Air Force rethink its EW (electronic warfare) capabilities and plan for future requirements."
Over time, according to the release, the wing's mission will expand to include "providing spectrum warfare capabilities" to warfighters.
“The competition in the electromagnetic spectrum is more important than ever before. The joint force is connected by and delivers effects in and through the EMS,” Col. William Young, 350th Spectrum Warfare Wing commander, said in the news release. “If we lose the fight in the EMS, we will lose the fights in all other domains. We’re here to help make sure that doesn’t happen.”
A final siting decision for the 350th SWW is expected next spring, pending the environmental analysis. Environmental analyses, which assess the potential environmental effects — including noise pollution — on the immediate environment of locations at which the Air Force is considering establishing new operations, are a regular part of siting decisions. The assessments include opportunities for public comment.
The activation of the 350th SWW "is the latest step the Air Force has taken to maintain our competitive advantage in electromagnetic warfare,” Maj. Gen. Case Cunningham, commander of the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center, said in Monday's news release, which amplified Air Combat Command's announcement Friday of the stand-up of the new wing.
“Placing this critical mission under a wing commander dedicated to this mission ... is fundamental to accelerating needed change and ensuring our warfighters can continue to fight and win in the EMS,” Cunningham said.
As part of the stand-up of the 350th SWW, the 53rd Electronic Warfare Group, part of the Eglin-headquartered 53rd Wing, will move from the 53rd Wing, of which Young is a former commander, to the 350th SWW.
The 53rd Electronic Warfare Group is responsible for providing operational, technical and maintenance expertise in electronic warfare for the combat air forces.
According to the ACC news release, moving the 53rd Electronic Warfare Group under the new wing will help ensure that "all Air Force electronic warfare and EMS capabilities are consolidated ... ."
Among the 350th SWW missions with a current connection to Eglin is addressing the electromagnetic warfare capabilities of the F-35 Lightning II fifth-generation fighter jet. In addition to that work, Eglin hosts training for pilots and maintenance personnel for the F-35A, the Air Force version of the jet.
Air Combat Command has one other connection to a local Air Force installation. The ACC's 505th Command and Control Wing, whose mission includes providing "comprehensive, realistic, cutting-edge operational- and tactical-level live, virtual and constructive exercises," is located at Hurlburt Field, headquarters of Air Force Special Operations Command.