Electronic Warfare

US Air Force sets sights on new spectrum warfare wing

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force plans to create a new wing focused on electromagnetic spectrum warfare come springtime.

While plans for the new wing — the 355th Spectrum Warfare Wing — have previously been discussed, officials Tuesday provided the most in-depth details regarding its creation, functions and timeline.

The wing, which is tentatively set to activate in March 2021, will enable “fielded forces to continually contest and on demand attack adversary [command, control, communication, computers and intelligence] functional structures controlling their key processes,” Lt. Gen. Chris Weggeman, deputy commander Air Combat Command, said during a virtual conference Nov. 17 hosted by AFCEA’s Alamo chapter.

“Their mission is to execute the U.S. version of Chinese nodal warfare,” the officer explained.

The wing will fall under the purview of the Air Force Warfare Center — which performs operational test and evaluation, tactics development, and advanced training — instead of the new information warfare command, 16th Air Force, which has operational control of electronic warfare.

The wing is a direct outgrowth of the Air Force’s yearlong study on electronic warfare, called the Enterprise Capability Collaboration Team, that was briefed to service leadership in January 2019. Specifically, two items identified in the study that led to the wing’s creation is that the Air Force’s electromagnetic spectrum capabilities atrophied over the past decades and there will need to be greater reliance on the spectrum in the future, according to Brig. Gen. Marty Reynolds, vice commander of the Air Force Warfare Center, who spoke during the same conference.

Spectrum is an enabler, he said. “If we believe that and we understand how important data is — that the computing and sensing at the edge is going to be informant going forward — then we have to make sure that we protect the transport of that data and that we can aggregate the data so we can make predictions to the analysis,” he added.

Other electromagnetic spectrum changes made within the Air Force recently include the realignment of its electromagnetic spectrum management office from Air Combat Command to the Headquarters Air Force staff under the deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and cyber effects operations, or A2/6.

Weggeman noted that the new wing will develop, host, integrate, test and distribute electronic warfare and electromagnetic spectrum mission “ware,” while also assist in electromagnetic battle management support and be an agile software pipeline for Air Force platforms.

The wing will be a clearing house for electromagnetic spectrum professionals who focus on electronic protection (measures taken to protect friendly communications and systems) and electronic attack (jamming) linked and improved through software and cognitive abilities, Reynolds explained.

He added that platforms should be able to connect and share data so a platform conducting electronic support can rapidly reprogram information and share it to an electronic attack platform.

The commander of the new wing will be Col. William Young, who previously commanded the 53rd Electronic Warfare Group.

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