Barksdale EWO

Capt. Kyle Allen explains the responsibility of the EOW.

BOSSIER CITY, La. - Everyone knows that the B-52 has pilots. But many don't know this aircraft has an unsung hero who defends the plane from enemy threats: The electronic warfare officer (EWO) or E-dub for short.

Capt. Kyle Allen is an electronic warfare officer aboard the B-52. His job is to make sure they: "Survive to strike our targets and then survive on our way out."

But there's a lot more to what an EWO do aboard the bomber.

Allen works with a lot of electronics to hide the B-52 from enemy radar. He compared the antennas on the B-52 to a radio antenna or a Wi-Fi signal.

"If you were to take a look at the outside of the B-52, you'd see a lot of pieces of metals sticking out like this. These are all antennas, and a lot of them are going to be defensive antennas," Allen said.

Believe or not, the tiny pieces of metal are enough to keep the entire B-52 safe from enemy radars. There are also receivers.

"I can see what is looking at us, see if there's any bad guys picking us up on their scope," Allen said.

And transmitters.

"When I see that somebody is looking at us I can put transmitter energy on them, and it jams their radar,” he added.

The EWO sits in the upper deck of the B-52 facing backwards. Cameras are not allowed in this work space because the technology is classified.

There are major threats an E-dub has to watch out for. Some are:

  • Naval threats: boats trying to take the bomber down.
  • Surface to Air Missiles or SAMs. When an enemy uses ground radar to locate the plane and shoot it down with a missile.  
  • Anti Aircraft Artillery. These are large caliber guns also shooting from the ground.
  • Air to Air threat. Like an enemy fighter jet following the B-52 trying to shoot it down.

Back in the day the B-52 used to have a gunner inside its tail.

"He operated a four-barrel gun in the back of the aircraft to shoot down any enemy fighter after us," Allen said.

The gunner had to crawl his way from the nose of the plane through tiny doors, then get on something the call the catwalk -- a ledge that runs along the bomb bay -- until he or she made it all the way to the tail of the aircraft.

"So you see this thing in the back with all the holes in it? We call it the cheese grater cause it kind of looks like that. That's where the barrels of the guns used to be. So the gunner's gun was sticking out of there,” Allen said.

This position was eliminated in the early '90's. Now the B-52 depends solely on the electronic warfare officer to keep the plane safe.

"No pressure ... yeah right?" Allen said.

Another task E-dubs are responsible for are studying the threats. That way the aircrew will have the upper hand in case of an attack.


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