The Army is undertaking a multipronged effort to field new electronic warfare equipment and organize new electronic warfare-specific units to modernize its force for a 21st-century conflict.
The Army has placed a lot of importance on electronic warfare in recent years, though some contend not as much as cyber despite their striking similarities. The service believes these non-kinetic capabilities will be essential in the multidomain battlefield of the future, as evidenced by Russia’s demonstration of electronic warfare capabilities in Europe.
According to Army charts made available to C4ISRNET, as well as statements from senior leaders, the Army wants to provide EW forces and capabilities from every echelon.
“In simplistic terms, we’re establishing electronic warfare that will also provide cyber effects through the electromagnetic spectrum that’s being established at the [brigade combat team] level and then at the corps level they can be pushed down to the division. So you’ve got electronic warfare capable formations on echelon,” Maj. Gen. John Morrison, commander of the Cyber Center of Excellence, told C4ISRNET in an interview.
Currently, the Army has established a unit — 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division out at Fort Lewis in Washington — to serve as the pilot unit for new EW platoons it plans to stand up within military intelligence companies.
Morrison noted that there is not necessarily a timetable for when the pilot effort will conclude, but it will be evolutionary.
“We expect to have enough reps and sets by the end of fourth quarter ’19 — we’ll be able to put the formal requirement into the Department of the Army because we would have learned enough by doing this experimentation and demonstration and rapid prototyping,” he said, adding that the work in this space will never be done.
Forces and capabilities will constantly evolve, as evidenced by cyber teams with U.S. Cyber Command.
“I suspect that we’re going to form the first four teams between ’19 and ’20 and we’ll get them on mission, but I think it’s going to be exactly what happened with the cyber mission force. We build out these 39-manned cyber protection teams and then we found out we never ever deployed 39 people, then we figured out how we were actually operating and we have now changed our organizational design based off of actual operational employment,” he said. “I think this is going to be the same thing.”
Morrison said the entire 2/2 Stryker brigade is being equipped right now with initial EW prototypes and organizing around the organizational framework the Army expects all brigade combat teams will adapt.
“That’s important because it’s going to do a final validation on our operational concept; it’s going to make sure that we’ve got the organizational structure right; it’s going to make sure that we’ve got the training right so that we’re training the operators the right way and then it’s really going to buy down risk as we move toward the formal program of record, the Terrestrial Layer System,” he said.
TLS, the formal program, will be an integrated EW and signals intelligence system for ground use that the Army decided to pursue instead of the old Multi-Functional Electronic Warfare Ground and Dismounted system.
The Army is fielding several incremental systems and capabilities to a variety of units both in the United States and in Europe to refine what the final requirements for TLS will be.
“Instead of just putting something on the paper and not really having anything behind it other than traditional analysis, what we’re doing is we’re leveraging these experiments and demonstrations so that it informs what we’re actually going to submit as the requirement,” Morrison said.
This includes the Electronic Warfare Tactical Vehicle, an armored vehicle that provides forces offensive and defensive electronic warfare capabilities.
It also includes the Tactical Electronic Warfare System (TEWS), a follow-on system to Sabre Fury, an initial prototype that was delivered to Europe that is a vehicle-mounted system for direction finding and jamming. TEWS is a more mature prototype than Sabre Fury, Morrison said, adding that it provides electronic attack and sensing capabilities.
TEWS is what’s currently being fielded to 2/2 Stryker.
Additionally, Morrison said there will be two more prototypes in the summer that will integrate signals intelligence, electronic attack and electronic sensing onto a single platform. This will be the strong precursor to TLS, he said.
This approach of prototyping and getting these systems into the hands of soldiers is the approach the Army has tried to adopt and implement through Futures Command and the cross-functional teams, which are all aligned to the Army’s six modernization priorities. Of note, however, is the fact that electronic warfare is not one of the six and there is not a cross-functional team dedicated to delivering EW capabilities.
“The key is, much like you’ve heard from the cross-functional teams, putting this kit in the hands of soldiers,” Morrison said. “We’ve got testers that are there; we’ve got the acquisition folks that are there; we’ve got the requirements folks that are there; and that solider in the middle is the one that is constantly feeding us back.”
Morrison pointed to how this process allowed the service to skip ahead of the Electronic Warfare Planning and Management Tool’s planned incremental capability drop schedule providing a more robust capability to the system.
This process “saves money, gets capabilities into the field faster and soldiers are telling us what they need it to do to support their operations,” Morrison added.
Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.