U.S. adversaries have become so adept at using electronic warfare that U.S. forces and their allies must now reduce their electromagnetic footprint or risk that enemies could use that information to geolocate, jam and then fire upon them.
“Near peer adversaries can contest the U.S. Army’s use of the electromagnetic spectrum and use it to cue kinetic weapons,” read a slide during a presentation by Col. Candice Frost, director of foreign intelligence within the Army’s intelligence directorate. Frost was speaking at the AFCEA Army Signal Conference March 12. Army leaders in the past have discussed the capabilities and threats posed by Russia’s electronic warfare prowess in public, but rarely have provided insights in the abilities of other nations.
“There are robust layered and integrated EW systems that disrupt and locate Army systems down to the tactical level,” she said. “At a minimum, the goal of the adversary is to control the use of the electromagnetic spectrum at critical locations and times to attack a specific system. They don’t always want to own it all, they just want it right here, right now when they need it.”
From a broad perspective, Frost’s noted that advancements in commercial electronics and signal processing have reduced the difficulty and timelines for adversaries to produce capable electronic warfare systems. During her presentation, she provided a breakdown of the threats each near peer nation poses to the U.S. from an electromagnetic spectrum perspective.
The list of adversaries included:
- Russia, which has a robust, layered capability that is integrated down to the tactical edge and supports Russian operations in Georgia, Ukraine and Syria. Frost also noted that Russia is continuing to modernize its EW capabilities.
- China, which has a modernized force with electronic warfare fully integrated into all operations, all echelons and all exercises.
- North Korea, which has capabilities that are theater based and used for defense of the homeland as it has limited access to outside resources.
- Iran, which has abilities that are similarly also regionally focused and in support of the homeland, yet highly capable.
- Non-state actors use commercially available resources such as GPS jamming equipment and typically don’t have a defined organizational structure to meet operational needs.
In addition, Frost said, attacks on navigation could severely impact the Army’s ability to conduct synchronized operations.
“The denial of accurate position, navigation and timing can cause U.S. units to remediate their attack effects, cause fratricide or other accidents and create command and control confusion during operations,” she said. “The enemy recognizes that and they look at our ability to target our movement and our coordination. This could drastically be reduced by the enemy due to inaccurate [position, navigation and timing] information.
Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.