Electronic Warfare stands ready to wage silent war
February 5, 2013
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea - We see it all too often. Another Soldier was killed when his convoy was hit by an improved explosive device.
The newspapers remind us all too often that thousands of lives have been lost to homemade roadside bombs on the roads and in the towns of Iraq and Afghanistan.
But what if those devices could be neutralized without anyone ever having to come near them? What if it were possible to disable these murderous gadgets without a single life being lost?
The task of performing counter-IED operations to disable roadside bombs lies with the Soldiers who call Electronic Warfare their profession.
"Anything that puts off a frequency, from the human body to computers and cell phones, we're involved in," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jeff E. Hughes, Electronic Warfare technician assigned to Eighth Army Electronic Warfare.
Electronic Warfare is not a new concept. It was a natural offspring of the technological competition between the Allies and Nazi Germany that sprang up during World War II, along with the development and improvement of radar systems, weapons systems and aircraft.
According to the book Electronic Warfare 101 by David Adamy, "The rapid evolution of radio and radar systems for military use during World War II, and devices to counter them, led to a technological battle that neither the Axis nor the Allied powers could afford to lose."
During the Cold War and Gulf War, the Army got away from using electronic warfare, said Hughes, as leaders believed they no longer needed this capability. But it soon returned in 2005, when the Army began soliciting personnel from the Navy and Air Force (who had still seen the usefulness of the field) to work with or, in some cases, join the Army and run its electronic warfare cells.
The electromagnetic spectrum allows Soldiers, leaders and military strategists an irreplaceable weapon that causes no bloodshed, but has the potential to severely disrupt the enemy's electronic capabilities.
"I see us as the guardian angels of the Soldiers on the ground, within the electromagnetic spectrum, that is," said Hughes.
The Army began to use electronic warfare primarily for counter-IED operations to be able to neutralize the homemade bombs.
"As long as we can stop that (IED), we can save their life, and the medics don't have to be called," Hughes said.
Not only is electronic warfare capable of counter-IED operations, but it is also capable of shutting down electronic systems. Here in Korea where IEDs are scarce, the electronic warfare cell spends it time staying prepared to protect our electronic systems and use their capabilities against any possible aggressors.
"We're always doing our own intelligence with technological advances," said Hughes. "There's always a new weapons system, a new radar system, a new aircraft system. We have to keep up with all the gadgets. We don't want what happened in Iraq with kids and toys being used against us."
This relatively young career field can and does make a substantial difference our ability to bring the troops home in one piece.
"I think it's great," said Staff Sgt. Tyrel Smallen, Eighth Army Electronic Warfare noncommissioned officer in charge. "There's a lot of room for improvement. As long as we're thinking ahead and doing our homework, it can be really influential in future battles."