U.S. Army, NATO rushing to develop better electronic warfare capabilities as Russia makes advances

U.S. Army commanders in Europe are pushing the service to upgrade electronic warfare capabilities as Russia makes substantial advances in the field.

The Russians pose a unique threat in the electromagnetic spectrum, having recently demonstrated advanced skills in jamming and targeting within the radio frequency environment leading some top Army leaders to assess the United States is “outgunned by peer and near-peer competitors.”

According to this report, the result is “Raven Claw 1 and incorporates facets of the existing program called Electronic Warfare Planning and Management Tool. The latter is a command-and-control planning capability that allows commanders and soldiers to visualize what the effects of electronic warfare will look like in the field on a screen.”

The report noted further:

The EWPMT program has four software capability drops planned incrementally over the next several years. The first capability drop is fielded to three brigade combat teams. It is expected to provide a visual of what can be jammed; what is being jammed; what is emitting; what the enemy emitter looks like; what it might look like to plan around the enemy’s emitting capability; and a strategy for jamming the enemy to allow for physical maneuver in the terrain.

Now, to meet those needs, the Army plans to jump directly to the third set of capabilities in EWPMT, Maj. Gen. John Morrison, commander of the Cyber Center of Excellence, said during a panel at an AUSA hosted event in Arlington, VA Dec. 13.

In the meantime, Raven Claw 1, a capability that includes EWPMT capability drop 1 along with additional electronic warfare asset control and enhanced situational awareness, will field to Europe in January, Col. Marty Hagenston, the project manager for electronic warfare & cyber at PEO-Intelligence Electronic Warfare and Sensors, told C4ISRNET in an interview. [source]

A separate report helps explain the urgency. NATO’s plans to defend the Baltic States are “inadequate” because they don’t take full account of Russia’s electronic warfare capabilities, warned Roger McDermott, a non-resident research fellow at the Center for Defense and Security during a recent seminar sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He noted that Russian forces are far from invincible, but added that the Kremlin’s electronic warfare units are numerous, well-equipped, well-coordinated with other combat arms like air defense and artillery, and above all honed by years of electronic combat, all things their US Army counterparts are not.

That makes it “more vital and pressing” to rebuild western electronic warfare than to build up new capabilities in cyber warfare, McDermott writes. [source]

(Analyst comment: Russia doesn’t have anything like the kind of money to spend on its military that the U.S. spends, so it must find and exploit vulnerabilities in the U.S./NATO military infrastructure — and it has found one, electronic warfare. Russian forces would be able to take away significant U.S. and NATO advantages in their use of technology on the battlefield unless the Pentagon and NATO defense sectors can develop and deploy countermeasures to Russian EW. 

The Russian capability was recently demonstrated in Syria. After previous attacks by old-fashioned mortars that killed two servicemen, the Russians were able to thwart armed drone swarm attacks on their Hmeimin airbase and against the Russian naval base at Tartus using electronic warfare. It isn’t known what techniques were used — spoofing of the drones’ electronic circuits or just overpowering their GPS with radio jammers — the techniques were effective.)

Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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