The Russian electronic warfare threat in Europe has caused the U.S. military and its foreign partners to scramble to reevaluate their capabilities and force postures. Some leaders have even asserted the U.S. is “outgunned” when it comes to electronic warfare.
Army soldiers in Europe, as a result, require additional capabilities. For the first time, details regarding soldiers needs — such as the ability to be mobile and operate disconnected from a network, which the current capability and program does not include — are coming to light.
The Army believes it can accelerate the development of a key electronic warfare program, and in the process, provide a road map for how the service might improve acquisition.
The foundational capability found in the current Electronic Warfare Planning and Management Tool (EWPMT) — a command-and-control planning suite with incremental capabilities added over time in software drops — enabled planning and visualization of the electromagnetic spectrum environment.
This was important as forces struggled in Afghanistan to defeat remotely controlled roadside improvised explosive devices. The offensive jammers used to disable the IED threat were so powerful they also jammed friendly communications. EWPMT’s foundational capability sought to mitigate these types of challenges soldiers encountered in Afghanistan. However, the tools required an expansion to address the different set of challenges faced by soldiers in Europe.
Enter Raven Claw 1, added to EWPMT ahead of the next capability phase (due in 2020). Raven Claw 1 enables soldiers to conduct electronic warfare planning and management on the move and without network connection, getting at a critical need for troops in Europe, who are rarely tethered to a static command post.
“The primary thing was making it portable and able to operate in a mobile environment.” Karen Steinfeld, director of capture management excellence tactical electronic warfare at Raytheon (the contractor for EWPMT), told C4ISRNET in an interview.
This way, if soldiers lose connectivity, they’ll have the last known good bit of data about what is going on and the ability to plan and manage around that, Travis Slocumb, vice president, electronic warfare systems at Raytheon, told C4ISRNET.
“Let’s say five minutes later you have connectivity for 30 seconds. Boom — you ingest the latest update and at least it’s better than not having an ability to see and plan and manage what you know,” he said. “It’s a laptop-based capability so it’s on the move, it’s mobile. You’re not sitting in a [tactical operational center] having to communicate out to the outer edge of operations ... it’s on the edge.”
Feeding back into the program
Steinfeld made sure to stress that Raven Claw 1 is part of EWPMT. She said it infuses capability on top of the current program trajectory that can be evaluated in action by the program office and eventually incorporated writ large for all units. However, larger, more universal upgrades based on feedback from the European deployment must be made first.
“To think of them as separate is really not accurate. Raven Claw 1 was a rapid response capability that we were able to do because of our investment in certain EW technologies and the fact that we have this open architecture,” she said. “An important thing to understand is that really Raven Claw builds upon the success in [capability drop] 2.”
EWPMT has four capability drops planned, with Raytheon having completed CD1 and CD2. The Army isn’t projected to make a fielding decision on EWPMT drop 3 until 2020.
In the meantime, Army officials have highlighted the Army’s response to the Europe operational need by fielding Raven Claw as an example of how new capabilities can be infused into existing programs outside of program schedules to adapt to evolving threats.
Steinfeld noted that Raytheon was able to develop Raven Claw 1 in six months, deliver it to the customer for initial testing and see it go to the field in just 13 months.
Slocumb noted that the lessons from Raven Claw 1 can inform future EWPMT iterations, explaining, “CD3 will not be a pure requirements-driven engineering exercise. It’s going to also take into account what we’re learning with this deployment. That’s where the value is in doing this.”
He said Raytheon will continue to work with the Army tweaking the solution and will have more concrete insights on Raven Claw 1’s success in a few months.