COL Jeffrey Church is the Army's Electronic Warfare Division chief in the G-3/5/7 Operations Directorate. He is the first EW division chief from the MOS 29 EW career field and is currently the senior EW officer for the Army. He has deployed to Iraq as the U.S. Forces Iraq electronic warfare officer, and to Afghanistan as the ISAF joint command chief of counter-IED.
He spoke to C4ISR & Networks Editor Barry Rosenberg about the lack of material solutions for EW soldiers, a key EW program of record, and the need to conduct EW training in a contested electromagnetic spectrum.
C4ISRNET: With support of the war fighter a given, what's at the top of your to-do list?
COL JEFFREY CHURCH: My first and foremost priority is getting electronic warfare material solutions into the hands of the EW soldiers out in our units and in the field. What are we at, 13-14 years of war now? After all of that time, if you go to an electronic warfare officer or soldier in the field and say, "let's go to your wall locker and see your military issued EW equipment," he is going to open up that wall locker and there is not going to be anything in there.
C4ISRNET: So what should be in that wall locker?
CHURCH: He should have the ability to conduct electronic attack. He should have the ability to conduct electronic warfare support. And all of our equipment should have electronic protect capabilities and features built into them. Mostly we haven't done that because of the need to get equipment into the field rapidly. We are very good at doing QRCs, the quick reaction capability.
The problem with that technique is it does not become a program of record. There is no sustainment funding, no improvement funding, none of the logistic tail that goes with it.
C4ISRNET: That may change as the Army recognizes the importance of electronic warfare to its current and future success. A development in that area is the Integrated Electronic Warfare System. Tell me about that.
CHURCH: It is the Army's overarching approach to the future of electronic warfare. Within the Integrated Electronic Warfare System is the Electronic Warfare Planning and Management Tool. Abbreviated EWPMT, that tool is what allows an [electronic warfare officer] to plan, coordinate, integrate and eventually dynamically control electronic warfare activities in his unit and his unit's battle space.
The second piece is the Multi-Function Electronic Warfare family of systems. MFEW is going to provide the Army the electronic attack capability and the electronic warfare support capability within its Army units that the electronic warfare officer, again, will be able to dynamically interact with through the EWPMT. So those electronic warfare support sensors and electronic attack capability will be displayed on the EWPMT. And then based on the commander's intent and the mission, the electronic warfare officer will be able to utilize those sensors and that electronic attack capability to influence the battlefield in the electromagnetic spectrum.
It is an IT solution, and will be on a laptop. You see the battlefield through all of the sensors that are embedded in MFEW. You will be able to see the electromagnetic spectrum around you. That will display in EWPMT. You will know where your offensive systems are. And those sensors will be detecting signals, which you can then either classify as unknown or enemy, based on the signal characteristics and location.
The third pillar of IEWS is called Defensive Electronic Attack, or DEA. Think of it as a current CREW system like Duke [an EW jamming system]. Duke defeats [radio-controlled improvised explosive devices]. But the capability within that Duke box and Duke software is much greater than just denying a radio-controlled IED.
So think of Defensive Electronic Attack as a super CREW system. But it will be used for protecting personnel, facilities and equipment. So we will have systems under MFEW that are designed to go out and do electronic attacks. For example, we are going to jam an enemy radar. That will be something that MFEW does.
Defensive Electronic Attack will still emit in the RF spectrum, but it will be to stop the IED from blowing up. Hence, Defensive Electronic Attack.
EWPMT is a program of record for the Army. We expect that it will initially field FY16, probably September of '16. We are expecting about 20 systems to go out to the field for initial operating capability. And we expect that that system will be mature and fully operational by about 2022.
C4ISRNET: How should EW training evolve to meet present and future threats?
CHURCH: We have got to get the Army back into the mindset of training in a contested and congested electromagnetic spectrum. Because even if you had no electronic warfare equipment and you were forced to go to a fight tonight, you would have to fight as I think one of our former secretaries of defense said: You have to fight with the Army you have, not the Army you want. So if someone forced a fight on us tonight, the Army would still have to be able to fight and win in a contested EMS.
C4ISRNET: We have not had to do that, so we do not have that capability.
CHURCH: Correct. And so we haven't done a lot of training in that field either. I started out as a private in 1985. My job was to carry a radio. And we trained back then to fight in a contested EMS against the Soviets. There was a lot of tactics, techniques and procedures that the Army was proficient in. It was just second nature. You did these things when you went to the field so that the enemy could not observe or detect you through your electronic signature.
We have not done that so much anymore. Because, as you said, the adversaries that we have been going up against haven't had those capabilities. So a lot of those skills have atrophied. We need to bring that back. We need to get back into training in that kind of environment so that our soldiers, sergeants, and our leaders experience those challenges in training, learn how to adapt, improvise, and overcome so that they can still fight and win with the Army we have today.
C4ISRNET: So is that a training issue, or more of a technology hardening issue? I'm thinking about conducting intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance in a contested environment. That's more about improving the ground stations and the platforms. There is a training element, as well, but it is more of a hardware challenge for the Air Force.
CHURCH: You are talking about a second kind of electronic warfare capability. And I would classify that as electronic protection. We have hardware requirements that have often over the last 15 years been waived in order to get systems into theater to be able to use them to fight the wars we've been fighting. And that has worked fine because somebody has not been able to counter my nonhardened technical system. But if we fight a near peer, a more advanced adversary, they obviously could do that. So you have that element of electronic protection that you are talking about from a technology standpoint.
I'm talking more about a training piece where you would do something like using a directional antenna instead of an omnidirectional antenna. You would use a low-power setting instead of a high-power setting. You would set your antennas up 200 yards away from your headquarters and then run a cable back to your headquarters so that if the enemy detected your transmissions coming off of your antennas and attacked, he would blow your antennas up. But your headquarters would be fine.
C4ISRNET: EMS. What can the Army do to better control the spectrum and protect it from our adversaries and prevent them from attacking us through that manner?
CHURCH: First off, I would say that a good defense is a strong offense. I would go back to our material solutions. From an electronic warfare standpoint, we need the ability to conduct Army owned and controlled electronic attack, and controlled electronic warfare support. And then we have got to get back into enforcing policies that have existed for years on electronic hardening.
But the problem with all three of those is money. We are not in a resource growth environment. We are in a shrinking resource environment. So it is a matter of prioritization. To get those material solutions to conduct that training and to do that probably very expensive electronic hardening … that has got to fit somewhere in the list of priorities. And where you are in the priorities will determine whether or not you get that limited resource called dollars.