Can US Army Maintain Electronic Warfare Superiority?

Budget Cuts Have Affected Modernization

By Sean D. Carberry

Adversaries currently have the ability to wage electronic warfare against U.S. forces, and Army leaders say they need to develop systems and training to more effectively fight in a contested or degraded electronic domain.

At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Army modernization, generals stated that one of the side effects of years of budget cuts and sequestration is that the service has forgone investments in modernization to focus on readiness.

That’s one of the reasons why adversaries have caught up in EW.

Maj. Gen. Robert M. Dyess, acting director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center, told the panel that he expects the Army to be contested in space, cyberspace and the electromagnetic spectrum.

“It’s going to be increasingly lethal, it’s going to be increasingly complex with urban environments,” he said, adding that the Army will need to operate with degraded capabilities.

“We’re putting that in our concept work, so that will help give us a point of direction to travel in,” and will inform people who develop military requirements going forward, he said.

Lt. Gen. John Murray, deputy chief of staff, G-8, said that defensively, the Army is developing greater resilience in its systems by using atomic clocks as a backup to GPS and developing alternative communication systems.

“We’re also looking at offensive capabilities,” he said. “We’re looking at development of a radiation-seeking warhead and ability to identify where that jamming is coming from in terms of EW.

But, as much as the Army is seeking technological solutions — both developing new technologies to stay ahead of adversaries and looking at analog technologies as a backup — it needs to factor EW and degraded environment conditions into its training.

“We really haven’t worried about this for the last 15 years,” Murray said.

“Training and leader development may be the thing that is the best investment, at least in the short term, because we have not exercised the muscle memory of full-spectrum operations,” Dyess said.

Dyess and Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, deputy chief of staff G-3/5/7, both argued that it is particularly important for brigade commanders to learn to fight without some of their critical equipment and to fall back on maps and analog technologies to guide land navigation and battlefield movement.

Dyess said that a persistent challenge to conducting full-spectrum training and putting troops through exercises with degraded electronics is that home stations and smaller training facilities do not control the entire spectrum. Since those facilities often are near civilian infrastructure, there are limits to how much electromagnetic disruption can be tested.

“You have to be able to experiment with this,” he said, adding that Fort Bliss/White Sands does have complete control over the electromagnetic spectrum, and more comprehensive training can take place there.

Other limitations are hindering training as well. Anderson said there used to be a dedicated armored brigade combat team at Fort Bliss to train other units.

“But the reality of the world, based on particularly Russia, caused us to have to go heel to toe in Europe, and there goes that test brigade,” he said.


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