The U.S. Army’s acquisition community is rapidly modernizing its suite of Electronic Warfare (EW) technologies in order to keep pace with rapidly emerging battlefield threats, develop an organic EW capability within Brigade Combat Teams and deploy new systems with improved offensive and defensive capability, service officials said.
This multi-faceted effort spans a wide range of activities, including ongoing upgrades to existing fixed-site, vehicle-mounted and Soldier-worn EW technologies for dismounted units, rapid development and fielding of next-generation systems designed to address near-term battlefield threats -- and a longer-term, broader strategic effort to engineer an agile, modular suite or family of EW capabilities able to effectively counter a host of current and anticipated future threats, said Michael Ryan, Deputy Project Manager, Electronic Warfare, Program Executive Office Intelligence, Electronic Warfare & Sensors (IEW&S).
Since the beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the emergence of the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) or roadside bomb as a major threat, the Army has succeeded in fielding a host of technologies able to thwart or “jam” the incoming signal from a Radio-Controlled IED (RCIED), thus delaying or preventing detonation and potential injury to Soldiers.
Some of the jammers fielded during the initial years of the war, such as the vehicle-mounted Duke V2 and Warlock jammers, informed subsequent upgrades designed to defeat a greater range of threat signals. For instance, the Duke V3 vehicle-mounted jammer, now fielded on thousands of vehicles in theater, represents a technological improvement in capability compared to prior systems, Ryan explained.
“At the beginning the threat was largely low-power with adversaries using things like Fobs, radio-controlled toy car controllers and garage door openers. Then they started to get more sophisticated. It was like a chess game. As we fielded new systems to counter the threat, the threat would move,” Ryan said. “We quickly realized that trying to just go after RF [Radio Frequency] triggers was not a very good business model because the electronic warfare threat is much bigger than that.”
(This first appeared in Scout Warrior here.)
Along these lines, PEO IEW&S is further upgraded the Duke V3 system through what’s referred to as a Duke Technical Insertion program; requirements and resourcing for this effort are in progress to design a system able to support a Global Response Force able to rapidly deploy anywhere within 96 hours with effective RCIED jamming capability, Ryan said.
“Overall, the Army’s approach to EW expanded beyond RCIED efforts to include offensive and defensive measures aimed at expanding the protective envelope for vehicles and dismounted units as well as countering a wider set of threats (such as enemy command and control, data links, radio communication and proximity fuses for artillery and mortar shells”, Ryan added.)
EW Quick Reaction Capabilities:
As part of its ongoing EW modernization effort, the Army succeeded in developing and fielding a series of emerging technologies, called Quick Reaction Capabilities (QRC), designed to deliver cutting edge EW solutions and simultaneously harness Soldier feedback and inform requirements for future acquisitions; some of these include:
The Thor III is a Soldier-portable counter RCIED “jamming” device designed to provide a protective envelope for dismounted units on patrol. The device is configured with transceivers mounted on a back-pack-like structure engineered with hardware and software able to identify and “jam” RF signals operating in a range of frequencies. Thousands of Thor III systems, which in effect create an electromagnetic protective “bubble” for small units on-the-move, continue to protect Soldiers in theater.
Building upon this success, PM EW has also been working on smaller RCIED jammers for the individual dismounted Soldier called ICREW, Individual Counter RCIED Electronic Warfare. ICREW is designed to further extend the EW protective range and capabilities for individual dismounted Soldiers, allowing them to identify and potentially “jam” signals for nearby IEDs. PEO IEW&S Product Manager CREW has conducted several industry days related to ICREW.
Ground Auto-Targeting Observation/Reactive Jammer (GATOR):
GATOR V2 is a 107-foot retrofitted surveillance tower equipped with transmit and receive antennas designed to identify, detect and disrupt electronic signals. The GATOR V2 is engineered to establish a direction or “line of bearing” on an electronic signal; it is also configured to use software, digital mapping technology and computer algorithms to “geo-locate” the origin or location of electronic signals within the battle space.
“GATOR v2 can help identify targets and tell a Commander where there are opportunities for him to influence his electronic battle space,” said Lt. Col. Douglas Burbey, product director, Raven Fire.
The GATOR QRCs, now in the process of fielding in increments over the next several months, will not only help bring improved technology and EW capability to Soldiers in theater but also serve to inform an ongoing Analysis of Alternatives designed to help refine requirements for future EW programs of record, Burbey added.
The GATOR QRC organizes and integrates technologies from a few similar systems such as the Duke V2 Electronic Attack fixed-site tower designed to transmit electronic signals – and the RoadMaster 3.75, a vehicle mounted QRC with a direction-finding antenna engineered to detect electronic signals. The Army has been able to achieve cost savings and efficiencies as a result of leveraging and integrating several existing systems, Burbey explained.
“The GATOR represents a successful merger of Army efforts to leverage progress from laboratories and other similar technologies,” said Sagor Hoque, electronic engineer with GATOR V2.
Wolfhound Handheld Threat Warning System
The Wolfhound is a radio frequency direction-finder engineered to locate enemy command and control nodes. The system, fielded as a QRC in 2009, is able to geo-locate RF transmitters operating in certain frequency bands, thus providing Soldiers with key battle-relevant threat information. Wolfhound can be Soldier or vehicle-mounted.
PEO IEW&S has also been advancing plans to stand up two new program offices to further advance EW modernization and prepare a suite of systems for the future, Program Manager Multi-Functional EW (MFEW) and Program Manager EW Integration. Engineering software and hardware solutions designed to be agile and responsive to a fast-changing EW threat environment is a critical element of the Army’s modernization strategy, Ryan explained. In concept, the EW modernization strategy is centered on developing and refining an ability to seize, retain and exploit a battlefield advantage within the Electromagnetic Spectrum, he added.
“The EW target set is much greater than just counter RCIED. We can’t only continue to develop single shot systems that just address the RF trigger. We need to address the whole threat scenario. The concept of Integrated EW involves a system of systems approach that looks at offensive and defensive EW attack requirements and the planning and management tools that EWOs [Electronic Warfare Officers] need to conduct the EW mission,” Ryan explained. “We want to do the architecture and engineering up front to have a suite of systems that are modular, have common components and can be tailored to conditions as needed.”
These PM efforts, informed by existing QRCs and several Analysis of Alternatives designed to help harvest lessons learned from theater and determine the best mix of needed capabilities, will result in the development of a new suite of ground-based, airborne and fixed-site EW technologies engineered to quickly adapt to a dynamic threat environment.
The idea is to develop systems with a common set of technical standards, described as open architecture, in order to maximize agility and be able to program the systems with software improvements tailored to address specific threats as they emerge.