I qualified as an Electronic Warfare Officer in 1989 and read this article with dismay. A few years after 1989, after the Cold War ended, we dropped the ‘unnecessary’ capability and now we seem to be starting from scratch. It feels like there is no current expertise on hand, everybody is a noob.
Some years ago, as a defense contractor, I worked on the “new” EW manning for countering IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan. As far as I could tell, this was a one-off effort, when I asked I found out the Army did not intend to keep up its conventional EW capabilities – at all. I felt truly uncomfortable with that, as I know many militaries, especially the Russians, continue evolving their EW capabilities. In the US Army, however, the only focus was on the CREW system.
Now, it seems the Army is preparing for EW attacks and defense on a more conventional basis, a la Russia and China. Some time ago I worked for the Association of Old Crows, the EW and IO Association. I attended a few briefings where the current and future EW capabilities of our potential adversaries were briefed. Finally, when all the Army’s EW knowledge is retired, we’re entering the steep learning curve to build new, modern equipment and then figure out how to best use it.
What was old is new again.
The Pentagon’s top weapons tester said the Army needs to more clearly establish how it will use electronic warfare systems as it conducts a significant, years-long initiative to rebuild its jamming capabilities for the first time since the Cold War.
According to the annual report from the director of operational test and evaluation, the Army’s current publications don’t clearly help units refine their “tactics, techniques, and procedures” or for organizing and using electronic warfare on the battlefield.
Moreover, the report noted that “procedures for coordination between intelligence and EW are evolving.” The report, released Jan. 31, added that “as the Army refines doctrine, it will need to place emphasis on coordination between EW and intelligence to provide EW crews with the essential information required to discern between friendly and enemy signals.”
Weapons testers looked at a suite of tools delivered to U.S. Army Europe as the gap between Russian EW capabilities and the United States grows.
Those systems, which were a combination of program of record capabilities and rapidly developed systems, included:
– The Electronic Warfare Planning and Management Tool (EWPMT), which provides commanders with command and control of the electromagnetic spectrum;
– Raven Claw, an add-on to EWPMT, which allows soldiers to conduct electronic warfare planning and management on the move and without a network connection. This is critical in Europe, where troops are rarely tethered to a static command post;
– The Versatile Radio Observation and Direction Finding Modular Adaptive Transmitter (VMAX), which provides a limited electronic attack and sensing capability,
– Sabre Fury, which is a vehicle-mounted system for direction finding and jamming.
The weapons testers observed the 173rd Airborne Brigade and 2nd Brigade/1st Infantry Division during Joint Warfighting Assessment 18.1 at Hohenfels, Germany. That assessment is a multinational training event that focuses on joint and interoperability.
The Army, in April 2017, published a field manual for what it calls cyber and electromagnetic activities (CEMA), which encompasses the growing convergence of cyber and electronic warfare at the tactical edge. However, given the rapid pace of the cyber and electronic warfare space, combined with the rapid deployment of capabilities, some top leaders have said the Army will have to update its doctrine every 18 months.
The Army also published an electronic warfare strategy in August 2018.
Army leaders are also now beginning to converge electronic warfare and signals intelligence. Given the similarities between the two disciplines, the service is beginning to develop integrated EW-signals intelligence systems.
The Army is also building new electronic warfare platoons beneath military intelligence companies. The service plans to establish a pilot unit in fiscal 2019 with I Corps to conduct experimentation on what the Army wants on the capability side.