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The US Army’s Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) has recently sent its near-term electronic warfare (EW) capability solution to Europe, and soldiers there will get a chance to try it out, RCO Director Doug Wiltsie told c4isrnet.com.
The RCO, officially created in August, is designed to zero in on the Army’s largest requirements with the intent to deliver capabilities within a one- to five-year horizon. It’s part of the service’s aggressive overhaul to its troubled procurement system and pushes even beyond acquisition reform outlined in congressional defense policy.
At its launch, the office claimed it would prioritize developing capability in the areas of electronic warfare; position, cyber, navigation and timing that were neglected in the counterinsurgency operations of the past 15 years. Now that the Army anticipates battling more near-peer adversaries in contested environments, it is refocusing on ensuring its capability overmatch those possible enemies. By December, the RCO had approved a strategy for a phased way to rapidly prototype electronic warfare capability.
“It was very clear that the strategic gap in EW was the ability for NATO and the American participation in NATO to be able to do ground maneuver in a contested environment,” Wiltsie said. “So what we’re focused on is being able to field a capability that will allow the maneuver force the ability to ground maneuver in a contested environment.”
The prototype will be tried out in an operational assessment during the Saber Guardian exercise in Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria. The Army will run another operational assessment in October and then take the information to the RCO for a decision on whether to field the capability to designated units.
The second element in the prototype will have an offensive capability, Wiltsie said. “Everything looks very, very good,” he added. “It’s providing soldiers the ability to understand the electromagnetic spectrum that they are in, are you being jammed, or what other radios/emitters are in your environment.”
The next phase, Wiltsie said, will tackle how to integrate the EW prototype onto a vehicle and how troops will use it. “One of the questions that we have to be able to answer to the board is: Could you do this with the existing organizations and troops that you have, or do we need to augment troops in order to be able to do this?”
An element of the EW solution would incorporate cyber capability, but the RCO is also working with Army Cyber Command on both offensive and defensive capabilities with more of a focus on the defensive side first.
The RCO has delivered an infrastructure solution to cyber forces and is working on a situational understanding capability. That capability is currently in source selection, and an award will be made soon.
For position, navigation and timing (PNT) the RCO is looking at five to seven different technologies “to see which one gives us either the best performance or is the fastest that we can incorporate,” Wiltsie said. “The idea is to spend very little money on a multitude of options to take them to some kind of assessment and then come back to the board and say: ‘We believe this one or these two are the ones that we want to go forward with,’ ” he noted.