By Spc. Jerod HathawayApril 23, 2018
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- U.S. supremacy is increasingly contested in the land, air, maritime, space and cyberspace domains -- and the electromagnetic spectrum -- as rivals innovate and leverage technology.
One of the ways the division is preparing for the fight of tomorrow is by employing a team of experts from the Space and Missile Defense Command located at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado to train their Soldiers on the nature of electronic warfare in the field and in the classroom.
"When we talk about many practices in the Army, we're talking about the past 16 years of fighting counter-insurgency operations," said Capt. Kyle Terza, chief of Home Station Training from the SMDC. "We weren't contested in the electromagnetic spectrum. The next war might be inside this type of environment. So, we have to train on it before we see it downrange."
The SMDC team is working with 10th CAB Electronic Warfare Specialists to employ a small, portable training device designed to interfere with navigational systems aboard the aircraft used in the exercise.
The interference device is called STEAVE, a Situational Trainer Electronic Attack Variable Emitter. It effects an area up to many nautical miles, said Terza. During the air assault mission of the exercise, Terza and his team of Electronic Warfare Specialists targeted the aircraft flying above, interfering with their navigational systems.
Terza explained he wanted the pilots to be able to recognize their navigational systems were being interfered with and be able to successfully navigate to their objective despite the interference.
"There is a huge perception that space is exclusively satellites in orbit and what not," said Capt. Michael Smith, a 10th Mountain Division Space Support Officer. "Soldiers usually ask, what does the Army have to do with that?"
However, navigational systems and satellites are only a small part of what the U.S. Army calls space.
"Your average brigade combat team has [thousands of] systems that touch space in some way," Smith said. "Anything with a GPS receiver, even timing for our computer networks are managed by nanosecond-accurate timing that is error-checked by our GPS satellites. It's one of the functions that our GPS satellite network provides, network timing across the globe."
Computers, cell phones, radios, modern wristwatches and even baby monitors, anything that transmits a signal operates on the electromagnetic spectrum, can be interfered with, said Smith.
The U.S. Army currently has Soldiers assigned to every brigade combat team who operate in electronic warfare. These Soldiers are integrated directly into the brigade staff and work with military intelligence and other strategic communicators.
"It's their job to combat the effects of GPS interference, to protect Army systems operating on the electromagnetic spectrum and to figure out how to incorporate offensive jamming and electronic attacks into the mission," said Staff Sgt. Brandon Traynham, an Electronic Warfare Non-Commissioned Officer for the 10th Mountain Division.
Traynham believes the SMDC coming to Fort Drum has helped Soldiers understand the real-world effects of electronic warfare on aircraft, navigational systems and even artillery batteries.
"Soldiers were able to see what it looks like, so they can identify it in the future. If something happens, they need to know what they're seeing when their systems don't work," Traynham said.
Education and creating awareness is a huge part of what electronic warfare Soldiers do, says Smith. Educating Soldiers on what is happening in the real world, in places where U.S. equipment may be interfered with, helps them understand what a near-peer adversary is capable of.
Smith wants to make space training a regular part of every unit's battle rhythm. If a brigade goes to the field, then he wants to ensure some type of space training is there. Seeing electronic warfare in a training environment versus 'death by PowerPoint' is something he believes can help it hit home for Soldiers.
"You're talking to kids who play video games eight hours a day on the weekend like Call of Duty," said Smith. "Those guys are throwing up drones and counter-UAV drones and using their way points to get around. All that's space, and they're using counterspace to fight it. They just don't recognize that this directly applies to their job. That's the kind of work that we've been doing with the aviation guys."
Soldiers need to be able to identify when their systems are interfered with, he says. Soldiers on the ground need to know that there's an electronic warfare officer who also needs to hear about it.
Feedback he has heard from Soldiers undergoing electronic warfare training in the field has been very positive.
Soldiers are going to use their DAGERS to navigate to battle positions. Logisticians use GPS to monitor supplies and get supplies and personnel to where they need to be to support the fight, Smith said. From a radio operator or someone operating a satellite terminal in the field, to someone navigating by GPS, all of those impact the space portion of the warfighter.
Instead of commanders being surprised that space personnel have showed up to participate in planning, he wants to make sure leaders are looking for space personnel during planning, so that space training assets can be made available to Soldiers.
"Understanding how to leverage our space capabilities also gives a peek into the enemy capabilities and allows us to accomplish the mission faster with less expenditure and less risk to lives," said Smith. "We can help you kill bad guys faster and bring more Americans home alive."