The Buzz

Revealed: The US Military's Electronic War Strategy to Counter Russia

The Pentagon’s soon-to-be published Electronic Warfare strategy calls for increased investment in advanced electronic warfare technology designed to defend U.S. assets and proactively use the electromagnetic spectrum to attack enemies.

DOD officials say the new strategy will be signed and distributed in the next two months, with additional annexes expected to be ready by Summer, 2017. The strategy will be an unclassified document to be shared with U.S. military developers and defense industry officials, Pentagon officials said.

Scout Warrior has learned of some key elements featured in the report, such as increasing EW attack technology, advancing new systems and training and equipping EW forces.

“In equipping our forces, we plan to develop advanced electronic attack, advanced electronic warfare support, harden our kill-chains with electronic protection, invest in electromagnetic battle management to manage the numerous assets in the battlespace,” Pentagon spokesman Maj. Roger Cabiness told Scout Warrior.

The prospect for a “first-of-its kind” DOD electronic warfare strategy gained new urgency following Russia’s successful use of advanced EW technologies in Ukraine, and the pace of global technological progress in the area of EW systems.

Electronic weapons can be used for an increasingly wide range of combat activities – from detecting and defending IED attacks to jamming enemy communications or even taking over control of enemy drones, among other things.

“Hardening the kill-chain,” for example, can involve the use of EW tactics to prevent an armed U.S. drone from being “hacked,” “jammed” or taken over by an enemy. Also, EW defenses can better secure radar signals, protect weapons guidance technologies and thwart attacks on larger platforms such as ships, fighter jets and tanks.

The report will also specify cross-geographical boundary radiated energy technologies designed to strengthen U.S. platforms and allied operations, Cabiness added.  

The Pentagon strategy calls for efforts to “purposely invest in cost-imposing strategies which directly challenge potential adversaries’ EMS (electromagnetic systems),” Cabiness explained.

The concept behind this effort to advance the cost curve and, for example, use less-expensive electromagnetic weapons to destroy, intercept or jam approaching enemy missiles, drones, rockets or aircraft; this is based on the reality that using an electronic weapon is much less expensive than firing an interceptor missile, such as a ship-fired Rolling Airframe Missile or Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile, to destroy an enemy cruise missile. These interceptor missiles, and other ship-defense technologies, can cost up to hundreds of thousands each, if not more.

This tactic would both force enemies to spend money on expensive weapons while decreasing the offensive and defensive weaponry costs to the U.S., therefore advancing a “cost-imposing” strategy, as Cabiness explained.  

Improving electronic warfare modeling and simulation to better prepare for emerging weapons systems is also emphasized as a key element of the strategy. This can help anticipate or train against future weapons applications which may not exist yet, but nevertheless pose an emerging threat.

Authors of the new Electronic Warfare strategy have worked closely with the Pentagon Electronic Warfare Executive Committee, stood up in August 2015.

The purpose of this committee is to translate electromagnetic experimentation into actual capabilities being deployed, as reported by Federal Computer Weekly earlier this year.

The committee is co-chaired by Frank Kendall, the Defense Department's top acquisition official, and Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The new strategy is designed to inform and operation alongside existing Army, Navy and Air Force efforts to engineer next-generation electronic warfare systems.

Air Force:

The Air Force is, for example, revving up electronic warfare upgrades for its F-15 fighter to better protect against enemy fire and electronic attacks, service officials said.

Boeing has secured a $478 million deal to continue work on a new technology called with a system called the Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System, or EPAWSS. 

These updated EW capabilities replace the Tactical Electronic Warfare Suite, which has been used since the 1980s, not long after the F-15 first deployed. The service plans to operate the fleet until the mid-2040’s, so an overhaul of the Eagle’s electronic systems helps maintain U.S. air supremacy, the contract announcement said. 

Various upgrades will be complete as early as 2021 for the F-15C AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar and as late as 2032 for the various EW (electronic warfare) upgrades, Air Force officials said.

 The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is also integrated with an AESA radar. 

Navy:

The Navy is engineering a new, more powerful, high-tech electronic warfare jamming technology, called the Next-Generation Jammer, designed to allow strike aircraft to destroy enemy targets without being detected by modern surface-to-air missile defenses.

The Next-Generation Jammer, or NGJ, consists of two 15-foot long PODs beneath the EA-18G Growler aircraft designed to emit radar-jamming electronic signals; one jammer goes on each side of the aircraft.  

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