Syria today presents the “most aggressive [electronic warfare] environment on the planet from our adversaries,” according to the head of Special Operations Command.
Speaking before an audience at the annual GEOINT symposium April 24 in Tampa, Florida, Gen. Raymond “Tony” Thomas said adversaries are testing the U.S. every day.
This, he said, has come in the form of knocking down communications and disabling AC-130 aircraft.
While he did not specifically name any one perpetrator, it is well known that Russia not only possesses advanced EW capabilities, but has deployed it on battlefields in Syria and Eastern Ukraine.
“They have used Syria as a testing ground for not just aircraft, but also their munitions as well,” Air Force Lt. Gen. VeraLinn “Dash” Jamieson, deputy chief of staff for ISR, said of the Russians at a January event in Washington.
“I would highlight they have fired off cruise missiles; they have fired off air-to-air missiles; they have used long-range aviation; they have conducted really what I could characterize as their first away-game operations in a complete and continuous deployment arena.”
NBC News recently reported that Russia has begun to jam small, tactical U.S. drones in Syria. Moreover, defense officials described the use of electronic warfare aircraft, such as the EA-6B for electronic warfare suppression, in the April 13 strikes against alleged Syrian chemical weapons facilities. This could have been to jam advanced air defenses Russia has deployed to the region.
These factors, along with others including the testing of equipment and concepts in the Ukraine, have influenced the U.S. decision to rebuild electronic warfare capability that atrophied at the conclusion of the Cold War.
Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.