Avoiding electronic warfare Pearl Harbor

By Adrienne MoudyDecember 4, 2015

Electronic Warfare
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

WASHINGTON (Dec. 3, 2015) -- Electronic warfare in the Army is undergoing a revolution, not an evolution, according to the Army's senior electronic warfare, or EW, officer Col. Jeffrey Church, the Army's EW chief at the Pentagon.

Church was invited to speak to a crowd of analysts, industry leaders, academia, government leaders and fellow Service members from both the United States and abroad at the Association of Old Crows 52nd Annual Symposium in Washington, D.C., Dec. 1. He participated on a panel discussion featuring EW programs and cyber implications.

The panel was moderated by the former Air Force chief of EW, retired Col. Jim 'Hook' Pryor. Also speaking on the panel was Paul DeLia, chief technical officer at L-3 Communications; retired U.S. Marine Corps Col. David 'Zam'Hathawa, cyber solutions lead at Lockheed Martin; and Jason Stockdale, cyber/EW analyst for Joint Electromagnetic Preparedness for Advanced Combat.

After two tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq serving in EW roles, Church spoke first-hand about the revolution that electronic warfare in the Army is undergoing.

"The Army got out of the EW business at the end of the cold war," Church said. "Then we got into engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan and we ran into the radio-controlled improvised explosive device. That really started having a big impact on the Army. It was killing and wounding a lot of our Soldiers. It was destroying and damaging a lot of our equipment."

Adversaries in these conflicts were not as advanced, relying primarily on radio-controlled, improvised explosive devices, or RC-IEDs, compared to potential adversaries such as Russia and China, who continue to demonstrate more advanced electronic warfare capabilities.

As adversaries continue to advance, the U.S. Army has plans to counter growing threats within the electromagnetic spectrum from adversaries that are considered near-peer. The Army has long-term plans for the Integrated Electronic Warfare System, or IEWS. IEWS is a three-pillar system of systems consisting of an EW planning and management tool, multi-function EW, as well as defensive electronic attack platforms.

Russia continues to demonstrate its EW capabilities in both Ukraine as well as more recently in the conflict in Syria. Both of these situations continue to draw attention to the long-term need for growth for the U.S. EW warfare capabilities.

"The Army is committed to this [EW]," Church said. "We are back into the spectrum. We have the people. What we have to get through now is to figure out the rest. We have to acquire material solutions that are programs of record and we have got to get our formations right."

Church also talked about having to get the Army's EW training conditions right as well.

Senior leaders across the Army and Department of Defense have noted in recent months the growing advanced EW capabilities in Russia. Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of U.S. Army Europe, has stated in previous interviews that the Russian's EW capability and sophistication is "eye-watering."

"There should be no EW Pearl Harbor, for the Army, for the Department of Defense or for the nation," Church said. "The reason for that is we know what our adversary capabilities are... we know from the time we have started fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq they have been observing us."

Now that Russia is employing its EW forces, Church says it's America's turn to watch and learn about them.

As division chief of Army Electronic Warfare, Church has made his No. 1 priority to field EW equipment to Soldiers in the field.

"The enemy has equipment right now," Church said. "They can step out and we see demonstrations of that quite frequently."

The Army has the facts about adversary capabilities and therefore should not be surprised, but as Church highlighted during his brief, the Soldiers and equipment need to be in place to keep the EW revolution ongoing within the Army.

"I equate it to the when the Army made the very painful transition from a horse run Army to an internal combustion engine," Church said. "Everybody thought that in this Army, everybody loved their horse and thought the cavalry ruled everything, but we made the transition and look, we have a much better Army today. If we were still relying on the horse, we would be much less effective than we are now.

"If we ignore adversary and Army EW capabilities in the EMS [electromagnetic spectrum], our current Army will become as effective during future fights as the horse-drawn Army would have been; it could still fight and win, but it would be much harder."

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