Army Embraces Airborne Electronic and Cyber-warfare
7:57 PM on May 09, 2010
David A. Fulghum writes:
The cyber world is a new battlefield for the U.S. Army, and those who plan network and electronic attack are quickly becoming major users of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR).
The U.S. Army has grasped the idea that to give digital weapons a chance for success in the battlefield, ISR must be available to find emitters, identify them, map the networks they operate with and precisely locate the nodes of importance for digital or electronic attack or exploitation.
That transformation is already underway at Fort Monmouth, N.J., the Army’s incubator for electronic attack and warfare. One example is development of the CREW anti-IED devices that are mounted on ground vehicles. These devices are designed to counter and defeat IEDS or roadside bombs.
But there are problems involved with the introduction of digitally-based, electronic defense an attack.
“We need an education process within the force to define with commanders how you use this Buck Rogers stuff,” says Col. Rodney Mentzer, project manager for electronic warfare at Fort Monmouth, N.J. “We are engaging the professional development community about how to educate the managers and even to understand the technology.
“Even today, if we give people a choice between a device to put on top of the vehicle that will save their lives through the electronic spectrum or a .50 caliber machine gun, they will take the machine gun,” Mentzer says. “And how do you educate senior officers that [they will face] a 360 degree attack against our forces all the time,” he says.
Clues about the fusion of ISR, cyber operations and electronic warfare are emerging even from unsophisticated environments such as 2008’s conflict between Russia and Georgia.
“[The conflict] demonstrated cyber and electronic warfare preceding an [armed] attack into a country,” Mentzer says. “They had a cyber-guerrilla army working for them. So what are our concepts of operations going to be – a special operations cyber-guerrilla force or are we going to embed it in every tactical brigade? I don’t know, but I think it would probably be the first option because of the complexity of what we’re trying to do and the need to assemble a trained work force that can do it.”
U.S. responses are being pushed by the rush of cyber-weapons into active use by foreign governments as well as non-state groups (that include terrorists, criminals and freelance digital pranksters). This new environment has dramatically increased the breadth of operations of and need for rapid, tactical ISR.
“We’re good at major combat operations; for example, we’ve figured out how to attack the communications piece of the [Russian-built] SA-20 [high-altitude, surface to air missile],” says Air Force Maj. Gen. David Scott, director of operational capability requirements and deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and requirements. What is more difficult for the U.S. is identifying and manipulating the command and control capability – based on secure, off-the-shelf communications – used by Somali pirates. “How do we get into that?”
An increasingly important segment of ISR is being dedicated to electronic surveillance that involves lightly used parts of the electro-magnetic spectrum. However, there are still many standards and protocols to develop. The Army – like the Navy and Air Force – still has to define their areas of authority, draw the boundaries with intelligence organizations like the National Security Agency and outline a network architecture that lets them operate in commonality with the other services and agencies.
The Army is in the midst of re-energizing its interest in the intersection of communications and electronic warfare. The growing use of digital communications has created a new target set that Army planners want to listen to, alter and otherwise manipulate.
“In some cases, technology is ahead of doctrine in that you can build systems, but we [do not] have the specialists, expertise or slots for them,” says Charlie Maraldo, director of the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) flight activity at Lakehurst, N.J. – the aviation arm of the Army’s intelligence and information Warfare Directorate (I2WD) Nonetheless, work on the new discipline is underway.
“I2WD is developing schemes to network electronic warfare and self-protection assets,” Maraldo says. “We are deeply [invested] in experts on cyber warfare. We supply signals intelligence expertise for most of the Army programs. We build all the airborne and some of the ground-based radars and run R&D for [those programs].
The group works across all the spectrums of ISR, EW, cyber and information operations and cooperates on projects that network operations in the air and on the ground simultaneously.
“Cyberwarfare may drive us into some new areas,” Maraldo says. “We are at a point with modern datalinks, internet protocols and structuring of the data-streams so that where ever the [electronic or cyber attack] equipment is located – on aircraft, in buildings or aboard ground vehicles -- we can design the system so that they are on the same network.”
The Army is re-engaging in the airborne EW arena after several years during which the Air Force and Navy had proponency for the discipline. As it gets back into the mission, it will have to create an organization and a core competency to create new integrated EW solutions.
Some specialists have suggested that if emissions from a field radio register on an intelligence-gathering network, either destructive or non-destructive effects could be launched against any target on the globe. In looking at the Army’s inventory, the attack platform could be a Multiple-Launch Rocket System or a Predator unmanned aircraft.
But there are some staggering demands in creating such a system. For example, the acquisition process is designed for peacetime.
“That is not useful when a new threat pops up in theater and we have to have a counter next week,” Mentzer says. As a result, “We’re seeing a lot of informality in the introduction of new equipment. People are buying their own because it is better than what they can build [themselves] and its easier to get.”
One bright spot in that picture may be a new staffing paradigm that comes from having reservists involved in cyber operations.
“If they can log in here at Fort Monmouth and affect events in Afghanistan, they are combat multipliers that are just waiting to be told to execute, [but only] if we are truly networked,” Mentzer says.
ar99, USArmy, AEW, cyber