SAN DIEGO — Pilot projects launched last year to examine how information warfare gurus can enhance submarine operations may yield long-term plans.

After embedding information warfare sailors and officers aboard two subs, there are now talks “to invest full-time, probably, in at least two cryptologic technicians to be onboard” and perform electronic warfare and related tasks, according to Navy Vice Adm. Kelly Aeschbach, the commander of Naval Information Forces.

The results, she said last week at the West 2023 conference in San Diego, recognize both “how complex the undersea environment is” and the benefits of allowing “information warfare experts to come and do their job full-time and support undersea experts, who need to focus full-time on operating their submarine in a very competitive environment.”

“The feedback we’re getting from both pilots is they’ve been value added,” she said.

Information warfare is a fusion of offensive and defensive electronic capabilities and cyber operations. It combines data awareness, analysis and manipulation to gain an advantage, before, during and after battles.

Aeschbach described the discipline as setting the table for others.

“You turn to the information warfare commander and say, ‘Where do we need to put everything to optimize battlespace awareness, assured communication and integrated fires?’ We make that proposal,” she told conference attendees. “And if we make that proposal, the other warfare commanders could put their feet up on the table. They could sit back and relax because we would keep everybody in competition.”

The Navy years ago installed information warfare commanders in carrier strike groups. The position, C4ISRNET previously reported, supplements air and surface warfare commanders.

The service also established Fleet Information Warfare Command Pacific, an entity postured for a vast region the U.S. considers vital to international stability and financial well-being. The Pentagon sees China as its No. 1 threat.

Aeschbach and Vice Adm. William Houston, the commander of Naval Submarine Forces, met earlier this year to review the progress of the submarine pilots. She credited Houston and others for the initiative.

“We knew each other well, because we worked together since both of us became flag officers,” Aeschbach said. “But we were in alignment, that the integration of permanent information warfare capability on the submarine would be really effective.”

Colin Demarest is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covers military networks, cyber and IT. Colin previously covered the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — namely Cold War cleanup and nuclear weapons development — for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.

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