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  • U.S. Army Confronts Afghanistan Demand for ISR
    Posted by Sean Meade 2:30 PM on May 07, 2010

    Dave Fulghum writes:

    A bright spot in the Afghanistan buildup is the introduction of several new, small and sophisticated aircraft designs that carry packages of sensors that will expand the U.S. Army’s ability to exploit the electromagnetic spectrum.

    More somber issues are that half of the surge force has arrived in Afghanistan and efforts to produce metrics of success are mixed. Part of the problem, Army analysts say, is that the electronic battlefield in Afghanistan is far different that it is in Iraq.

    “It’s very austere and the infrastructure isn’t there,” says Col. Rodney Mentzer, project manager for electronic warfare at Fort Monmouth, N.J.    

    “There is no World Wide Web or network. It’s totally different. The networks that are established – 802.11 and 802.16 – are line of sight unless there’s some sort of relay – satellite or surrogate satellite.”

    But, warn analysts, the threat in Afghanistan will evolve.

    The Army’s larger, service-wide burdens include defining its cyber and electronic warfare policies, training a specialized, cyber and electronic attack force, pushing more advanced technology out of the laboratories and into the field and, finally, creating shared networks for airborne and ground systems.

    The Army has poured the lessons it learned from the now-cancelled Aerial Common Sensor (ACS) into its Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance System [EMARS] aircraft. With the plan to use a King Air 350 loaded with EO/IR sensor and signals intelligence equipment parallels the Air Force’s MC-12W Project Liberty fast-response ISR package.

    The Army also is continuing to upgrade its UH-60 and RC-12 electronic surveillance and attack aircraft. All are fielding enhancements that could become part of an even more advanced ACS design.

    “We conducted a ‘Sledgehammer’ demonstration to demonstrate a quick reaction capability that could convert UH-60 Black Hawks into an electronic warfare platform within an hour,” says Charlie Maraldo, director of the Army’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) flight activity here.

    Cyber operations are expected to drive the Army into ever more sophisticated areas of electronic surveillance and attack. The Army operations directorate is planning to field a manned or unmanned aircraft that can demonstrate airborne electronic attack. Specialists are defining when and where cyber tools become battlefield weapons and cross into the tactical combat world.

    The basic components of airborne electronic or cyber attack are (1) a sensor that can map an enemy network, (2) the precise location of an antenna that feeds the network and (3) an electronically scanned array antenna that can generate a datastream packed with inquisitive algorithms. (4) If that data-stream can be beamed into the proper antenna, the target network can be entered and exploited.

    “You can defeat it, listen to it and use information operations to change it,” Mentzer says. “What we don’t know is how much of that fits in the tactical army and if we have enough soldiers with the right qualifications and clearances.”

    There are also operational issues.

    “It has to be designed into the system that somebody, somewhere can determine that there is a radio transmitting from a known location, and that we’re going to use a ground, UAV, manned airborne or joint system to put effects on that target,” Mentzer says. “Then you have to define the effects. Do you jam, snoop, use information operations to change what they’re saying or hearing or do we bring in lethal fires?”

    Tags: ar99, USArmy, Afghanistan, ISR

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