This is the fourth and final part of a series detailing Army efforts to advance and integrate tactical cyber, electronic warfare and information operations within traditional forces. Previous installments can be found at part one, part two and part three.
Through its recent Cyber Blitz exercise, the Army learned lessons regarding how well electronic warfare personnel can conduct cyber planning and how integrating electronic warfare and signal intelligence would work on the battlefield.
On Oct. 1, 2018, all the functional electronic warfare personnel transferred into the cyber branch becoming cyber planners.
Despite questions whether these electronic warfare personnel will be able to plan cyber operations within the cyber and electromagnetic activities (CEMA) cells across echelons, one official noted that their job overall is not changing.
“Being the only [EW career field warrant officer] in the room, the one thing I wanted to emphasize is we are converting to the cyber branch; however, we are still electronic warfare professionals,” Chief Warrant 2 James Gill, Cyber Center of Excellence electronic warfare assessor at Cyber Blitz, told C4ISRNET during a visit to the experiment.
The EW job is not changing, he added. Rather, they will have a foundational understanding of cyber and EW that will allow them to conduct the planning, the integration and the synchronization, just like the definition of CEMA says.
The Army has defined an approach in which everyone will have this foundation of EW and cyber, enabling a tactical cyber force that can also conduct electronic warfare. The high-end folks will feed into the cyber mission force, with the cyber warriors provided by the services to U.S. Cyber Command to conduct strategic level cyber operations.
(Signals) Intelligence versus electronic warfare
Despite friction in the past over what constitutes intelligence and what is necessary for battlefield commanders, the Army is now looking to converge signals intelligence and electronic warfare, both of which rest on similar scientific principles.
Cyber Blitz helped leaders assess this realization, test its integration in operations and allowed assessors to take valuable lessons back.
Cyber Blitz Director Richard Wittstruck told C4ISRNET that the Army published its military intelligence-electronic warfare concept of operations, which was designed to bring the two closer together. For example, from the SIGINT perspective, how can SIGINT support the electronic support/electronic attack mission and vice versa, how does that mission help and intelligence collector refine their SIGINT collection?
Such concepts were gamed during Cyber Blitz with live teams and live capabilities on the base’s range. There were intelligence and electronic warfare personnel rolling to an objective together, doing their respective mission essential tasks, but having a basic understanding of what the other one needed in order to make the objective happen, Wittstruck said.
With this convergence, the Army is now pushing integrated capability for these two forces to use called the Terrestrial Layer System, which is still in the works. Despite the push for integrated capability, Gill noted that the focus of assessors at Cyber Blitz wasn’t on such an integrated system or capabilities in general, but rather the concepts for how these forces can operate together.
“We’re seeing really where we need each other,” he said. “So the SIGINTers take away, ‘OK, this is what EW can do for me and this is where I need EW.’ EW takes away, ‘Well, this is why I need SIGINT, this is why I need them right beside me helping me out with what I need and this is what I can do for them as well.’ ”
Overall, the integration worked fantastic, Gill said, adding it was the best he’d ever seen.