The Rat dialed in for his first Army Blogger’s Roundtable call today, to get the scuttlebutt on the Army’s new electronic warfare career path., Col. Laurie Buckhout, chief of the Electronic Warfare Division, Army Operations, Readiness and Mobilization, talked about the the new Electronic Warfare (EW) 29 Military Occupation Speciality for officers, warrant officers and enlisted.
EW is a key element of the networked battlefield. It’s also an immediate asset in dealing with cyber threats that ride the electromagnetic spectrum — cell phones, wireless networks, satellite data links and other mobile networking technologies that are vulnerable to interception, jamming, or disruption. “We are seeing comms electronic attacks,” said Buckhout. “We’re seeing directed energy capabilities. We’re seeing laser capabilities. We can shoot down incoming munitions with lasers. We have something called active denial systems that puts out a directed energy pulse that is harmless but not something you want to get in front of. And it keeps people out of a certain area. It’s an area denial system. We have a whole lot of capabilities out there that use the electromagnetic
spectrum, not just the communications spectrum in ways that are very beneficial to the U.S. Army.”
” When the enemy can’t talk to each other to coordinate a fight, or to coordinate an escape, to coordinate an activity, it certainly helps us in our offensive or defensive actions, whatever we want to do at the time,” said Buckhout. And putting that capability in the hands of local tactical commanders, instead of relying on airborne assets like those of the Navy and Air Force, helps control the scope of the effects, restricting them to what’s needed by the tactical commander. “We have airborne technologies that are UAS-based. So instead of having something at 30,000 feet, you can have something controlled by the local tactical commander. So if he wants to do some communications jamming in support of one of his operations, he can do just that instead of having the asset come in and blank out half the theater with a footprint.”
Electronic warfare has grown in importance to the Army, especially in its efforts to prevent attacks with remote-controlled improvised explosive devices (IEDs). And with the increasing net-centricity of the Army, there’s the need to counter communications jammers and other attempts to deny troops the electromagnetic spectrum, and the need to counter or exploit an adversary’s use of that spectrum–including cell phones and wireless networking.
Currently, the need for electronic warfare specialists is being met on the battlefield largely with Navy and Air Force personnel. The Army is looking to fill the electronic warfare career path with 1,619 soldiers from the rank of E-5 and up to Colonel.
The training for the new career field will be held at Fort Sill, Oklahoma — the home of Army Artillery. While Ft. Huachuca has an electronic warfare school focused on “electronic support” — “the targeting side, that ties into [signals intelligence] as well , the collection of intelligence to enable rapid targeting,” Buckholtz said. Electronic attack, however, is seen as “a form of Fires”, she said–like artillery, it has an area of effect. So the EW offensive training is being pulled into the world of Arty.
I asked about the connection between the electronic warfare MOS and the cyber realm. “We see cyber and EW as connected,” she said, “but not the same thing. One of the challenges we’re running into cyber right now is that cyber policy exists at some very high levels. If you want to go out and attack somebody on a network, that’s a very high level policy decision to make, whereas electronic warfare is done by tactical commanders to achieve immediate tactical effects…Our thoughts are that when something passes from the cyber realm into the wireless realm, then it’s open season for EW. So if you’re using a cell phone network to transmit something off of a PC or a laptop in a cafe, say, that’s certainly open to any sort of gaming intercept, et cetera, that you might have going through the open air.”