The field of electronic warfare has become an urgent focus. With more and more terrorist cowards using the frequency spectrum to rain destruction on our troops, it has become more important to the military to counter those affects. Many years ago, the military recognized a need for electronic warfare in the area of Signal Intelligence (SIGINT) and as a more passive, collection platform. Now, the military must again be agile in finding a solution to the problem of remotely detonated IEDs.
To answer that need, the Army has created the new 29-series military occupational specialty (MOS) for officers, warrant officers and enlisted personnel. I recently took part in a roundtable discussion with COL Laurie Buckhout, head of the Electronic Warfare Division. This new electronic warfare would be more than SIGINT and collection, COL Buckhout said. It would also encompass electronic attack, electronic protect, as well as incorporating the SIGINT and targeting side of operations. It was stood up in May 2006 and immediately began working up solutions. The branch was recently approved to maintain a full-time cadre with approximately 1600 personnel.
I’ll do this post in a question/answer format.
Rob Stewart from NCO Call: What [military specialties] are going to be re-classed or have the opportunity to get this additional MOS? Are you taking those from the signal MOSs?
COL Buckhout: It’s going to be a volunteer and GT based thing. We’re getting a whole lot of volunteers from the field every day. NCOs, officers, and warrants all kind of want to play in this because they see it as certainly the way ahead to go from kinetics to non- kinetics, you know what I mean. So we’re seeing young soldiers weighing in. Some of them are field artillery soldiers, some of them are signalers, some are intel guys, some are defenders. We’re seeing across the gamut, but I would say the focus comes from the artillery guys because of their fires and targeting background, the signal guys because of their spectrum knowledge, and the intel guys, again because of their capabilities.
NCO Call: Will this be a critical skill MOS?
COL Buckhout: Yes it is. Having the visibility of the vice — the chief of staff of the Army, the G-3, and all kinds of senior folks, it’s going to be a critical MOS.
Chuck Simmons from America’s North Shore Journal: are we actually setting up a duplicate program to something that perhaps the Air Force has with some of their overhead assets? I’m thinking JSTAR or some of the capabilities of the AWACS. I guess I’m not following how, you know, Joe Infantry man is going to benefit from the electronic warfare in the Army.
COL Buckhout: The Air Force and the Navy have for a long time been flying high-altitude, airborne electronic attack capabilities like some of the ones you mentioned. What they do is fly at 30,000 feet, usually or so, maybe even above, maybe a little bit below — about 30,000 feet, and they transmit on very powerful capabilities, and they jam a whole lot of stuff on the ground. So they have a huge footprint on the ground.
They were designed to do suppression of enemy air defense. They were designed to protect strategic assets, bombers, long-range strike capabilities, et cetera, from air-to-ground missiles — excuse me, from ground-to-air missiles and other ground-to-air threats. So what they did for those other aircrafts, the weapons aircraft, they put a sort of protective bubble around them and they jammed the stuff on the ground.
So we need to have surgical on-the-ground assets to complement our capability of emitters and collectors so we can, as I said earlier, go out and get the enemy first, or stop him from getting us on the ground.
But I think what you said, though, really shows a point — there’s been a sea change, a huge paradigm shift in the understanding of EW because for decades it’s been run from the air. But now that you have an asymmetric ground battle — not the Cold War anymore — people are beginning to understand that there are a plethora of targets in and about any, you know, square kilometer on the ground, you know, in either theater right now, or other — potentially at theaters like AFRICOM. And we have to protect ourselves and be able to attack from a ground point of view.
America’s North Shore Journal: What kind of technology are we talking about that exists right now for such local effects?
COL Buckhout: Well, some of them are the jammers we have out there. We use jammers to prevent the detonation of IEDs. We use jammers out there to prevent communications. When the enemy can’t talk to each other to coordinate a fight, or to coordinate an escape, to coordinate an activity, it certainly helps us in our offensive or defensive actions, whatever we want to do at the time.
We have airborne technologies that are UAS-based, UAV-based. So instead of having something at 30,000 feet, you can have something controlled by the local tactical commander. So if he wants to do some communications jamming in support of one of his operations, he can do just that instead of having the asset come in and blank out half the theater with a footprint.
So we are seeing comms electronic attacks. We’re seeing directed energy capabilities. We’re seeing laser capabilities. We can shoot down incoming munitions with lasers. We have something called active denial systems that puts out a directed energy pulse that is harmless but not something you want to get in front of. And it keeps people out of a certain area. It’s an area denial system.
So we have a whole lot of capabilities out there that use the electromagnetic spectrum, not just the communications spectrum in ways that are very beneficial to the U.S. Army.
CJ Grisham from You Served (*whoot): Is this electronic warfare stuff going to be fielded with existing equipment, or recreating all new equipment, or fielding all new equipment? And as a follow-on to that, if it is new equipment that is in production right now, how does that square with our commander in chief’s decision to kind of stall future combat systems and things like that. How does that fit in?
COL Buckhout: I think for starters, if you look at the equipment that’s out there right now doing some of the EA stuff, electronic attack stuff, you know as a SIGINT, you have some very sophisticated surgical capabilities that are often kept at very high classification levels.
What we don’t have, however, is a more democratic capability. What we have now is crew, and you know about crew; that’s counter-RCID electronic warfare. Those are those jammers. And they are crewed, and very fratricidal to comms and probably to some of your collection efforts too. And what we’ve been seeing in a lot of studies over the last half decade is that we need to have something crew-plus. We need to have a capability that is not as heavy, expensive, or, you know, single-purposed as crew but enables electronic attack in different echelons. You know, if you have to do a dismounted op and you got to go into a — you know, clear a small village, clear a building, and you’re dismounting infantry soldiers, you can use a small dismounted jammer to suppress comms, or even suppress a certain frequency of comms, or even do comms hurting while you’re going into that area.
Also a note on our commander in chief, he made a really interesting point, and I just called it up on Google here. What did he talk about? Okay. Here’s what President Obama said I think last month: “We must adapt and make tradeoffs among systems originally designed for the Cold War and those required for current and future challenges. We need greater investment in advanced technology ranging from the revolutionary, like unmanned area vehicles and electronic warfare capabilities to systems like the C-17 cargo, et cetera, et cetera.”
So, you know what, I’m taking that comment as right in line as the Army’s way ahead, and our mantra is change.
Sean Gallagher from Forward Observer and thepacketrat.com: I wanted to ask how the new MOS integrates with the Army’s plans for network warfare, the cyber side?
COL Buckhout: Right now we’re tying partially into the OSD guidance. Of course we’re playing with OSD guidance of course within it. But OSD guidance came out a couple of months ago and said that cyber is the interconnected network of servers, et cetera, that moves data around, but it doesn’t necessarily include electronic warfare.
We see cyber and EW as connected, but not the same thing. One of the challenges we’re running into cyber right now is that cyber policy exists at some very high levels. If you want to go out and attack somebody on a network, that’s a very high level policy decision to make, whereas electronic warfare is done by tactical commanders to achieve immediate tactical effects.
If a BCT or a battalion commander wants to do an operation, as I said earlier, and he needs to do some comms hurting — you know, getting the enemy off one frequency and onto another so he can hear them, that’s where he would make the decision at that O-5, O-4, O-3, E-7 level to go ahead and proceed with that attack. However, if you wanted to do actions on the Internet or you wanted to go after somebody else’s servers, et cetera, that would require an entirely different echelon of approval and timing and processes.
So we’re seeing EW much more as a tactically effects-based capability — CNO, highly valuable, more of a strategic asset at this point.