Harnessing Electronic Warfare

electronic warfare

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U.S. Army trainers have successfully used cyber weapons and electronic warfare (EW) technology to thwart a simulated tank assault at a training exercise. The achievement reinforced the need for the EW and cyber protection technology that is under development by entities such as the Army Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) and U.S. Cyber Command.

“These tanks had to stop, dismount, get out of their protection, reduce their mobility,” said Capt. George Puryear, an Irregular Operations Officer. As a result, they were easily defeated. The cyber weapon used in the exercise specifically targeted the radio and wireless communication systems. Cyber warfare can include jamming of communication signals and hacker infiltration into networks, which they can then either disable or manipulate to relay false information to commanders from within their own networks.

According to defensesystems.com, another aspect of cyber warfare explored as part of the exercise was infiltration of civilian networks in order to subdue a population and invade territory.

Exercises like this one help determine the technology and equipment necessary to achieve this effect in the field, explained Brig. Gen. J.P. McGee. The Army RCO plays a key role in developing this technology and making it accessible. For example, the RCO initiated the development of new EW and cyber protection kits, which have been delivered to troops in Europe for testing. The kits are able to be mounted on vehicles or carried by the soldiers themselves, according to Doug Wiltsie, Director of the Army RCO.

These kits contain sensors controlled by software that recognizes and analyzes electromagnetic signals. The package reportedly also has offensive EW capabilities that are more effective than the existing jammers used by anti-missile systems in aircraft.

During heavy fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, EW technology-equipped aircraft helped suppress electromagnetic signalling from enemy ground fighters, according to the Air Force.

Right now, the kit focuses on EW offensive and defensive technology, but it is part of a larger effort to obtain both EW and cyber protection capabilities, and GPS alternatives. GPS alternatives being explored include DARPA’s Adaptable Navigation Systems (ANS) and Spatial, Temporal and Orientation Information in Contested Environments program, which is based on using extremely long-range signals, self-sufficient tactical clocks, and data sharing to overcome EW attacks.

As many as seven alternative systems for Precision, Navigation, and Timing are being considered, and work on the first projects has begun and is scheduled for operational assessment in early 2018.