With the emergence of electromagnetic spectrum operations and electronic warfare playing a much larger role in conflicts going forward, the Army is fielding a new tool to provide commanders both greater understanding and awareness of the spectrum for better planning and decision making.

The Electronic Warfare Planning and Management Tool, or EWPMT, will provide an initial integrated Electronic Warfare System, or IEWS, capability by coordinating and synchronizing operations across the 2/3/6 staff sections within the command post from the joint task force level down to the battalion.

"Bottom line is EWPMT is a mission command software application that enhances the CEMA (cyber and electromagnetic activity) element's ability to plan, coordinate and synchronize CEMA with mission command systems," said Lt. Col. Marc Dorrer, product manager for electronic warfare integration.

Key tasks the tool provides the force include capabilities to plan, coordinate, manage and deconflict electronic warfare and spectrum management operations; integration of electronic attack in the targeting process to ensure electronic attack can meet the commanders' desired effect; and synchronization of electronic warfare and spectrum operations within the CEMA cell.

"EWPMT is really the first tool for the electronic warfare officer," said Maj. Eric Burke, assistant product manager for electronic warfare integration. "There are a multitude of other systems that bring a partial capability for EW or spectrum planning. But EWPMT pulls everything together into a common operating picture similar to the other command systems but really is the background and the backbone of the system, which provides the robust modeling and simulation capability to give commanders confidence in what they are seeing and what effects they can expect."

From both the electronic warfare officer and commander's perspective, this tool makes their jobs much easier, officials said.

"As an EWO officer I can tell you that in the past…the electronic warfare branch or functional area has had a lot of issues planning and managing and trying to convey the spectrum to the commander," said Maj. Jason Waters, electronic warfare officer for product manager of electronic warfare integration. "Most of our commanders today are infantry, armor…Electronic warfare was a new functional area and everybody, the Army's had learning curve with electronic warfare. What EWPMT has done is helped us to speed up that learning curve to support the entire staff and that was something that we did not have in the past."

"Electronic warfare is relatively new to the Army, it's a new branch, it's a new mission set that we've been attack over the past six to seven years. With that growth in the Army comes the growth of tools," Burke said. "The EWO branch as it stood up did not have a tool as every other branch has to do their job…With this new fight that the Army is involved in they have to have a tool in which to do planning and management of what it is they're supposed to do in the spectrum."

"What EWPMT does is it allows me to plan and manage the spectrum and give [the commander] multiple courses of action in a live GUI (graphical user interface). It gives him a graphical user interface on the picture of electronic warfare," said Waters. "There's no tool out there currently that can give him the ability to provide electronic attacks and electronic support capability."

Waters added that in the past, the Army used Microsoft Office capabilities with no GUI. "We did not have something that we can show to the commander to express how we can support his fight," he said.

In taking an incremental approach to fielding the EWPMT there are four capability drops planned, with the first set to hit in early fall. It will provide an initial capability to include 2/3/6 coordination of EW effects for mission command capabilities, analysis in the targeting process to employ EW assets and virtualize EW effects, and the electronic order of battle on the commander's common operating picture.

"What we're doing is an incrementally developed system so that we can provide incremental capabilities sooner and faster that are still beneficial to the warfighter," Dorrer said.

For capability drop two "we're adding onto it and providing additional capabilities as prioritized by the TRADOC capabilities manager," Dorrer said. Additional capabilities in this set include the incorporation of spectrum management operations into mission planning and execution, mitigation of frequency fratricide, automation of collaboration between all echelons to increase agility and speed during missions, and facilitating exchange of data with joint forces. Dorrer said capability drop three is when the architecture will be established in order to command and control EW assets.

In terms of overall timelines, Burke told C4ISRNET that each capability drop takes roughly 18 to 24 months in duration. Capability drop two is slated for fiscal 2018 and drop three in 2019, with capability drop four completed in 2020 and fielded in 2021. Based on the current program of record and the requirements, officials at Program Executive Office Intelligence Electronic Warfare & Sensors said the tool will be fully completed and fielded to troops in 2021.

Officials didn't offer specifics but said that global events, trends and threats were taken into account with the fielding of this tool. Russia has demonstrated high sophistication in the electromagnetic spectrum as evidenced in operations in Eastern Ukraine, causing much concern for members of the defense and academic community.

As the EWPMT progresses through increments, "it will have real-time capability to show what's happening in the electromagnetic spectrum on the battlefield from both an enemy and friendly perspective," Col. Mark Dotson, TRADOC capabilities manager of electronic warfare, said at TechNet Augusta in August.

Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.

More In ISR