FORT STEWART, Ga., (June 9, 2021) – Soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division employed a rapid prototype jamming detection system during a Tactical Electronic Warfare (EW) Kit Capstone Event at Fort Stewart, Ga., May 24-26.
The EW kit alerts Soldiers if they are being jammed or spoofed related to their Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) signal, and a sensor provides their location while on foot - two essentials on today’s battlefield.
“In the fight we are anticipating, having assured PNT (positioning, navigation and timing) at the dismounted level is something we need,” said Staff Sergeant (SSG) Paul Dykes, an electronic warfare Soldier with the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team (2ABCT), Third Infantry Division (3ID). “This kit gives the dismounted Soldier immediate situational awareness.”
The easy-to-use dismounted EW kit provides position data to enable tracking and navigation when satellite technology is unavailable or unreliable. The spoofing or jamming detection feature occurs at the lowest echelon – the dismounted Soldier. This information is received in real-time, providing situational awareness into jamming or spoofing at the Soldiers’ location and from other dismounted Soldiers nearby.
The new kit also provides navigation that estimates the user’s current position during and after a a signal goes down.
The capstone event put Soldiers through several scenarios where, while dismounted and spread out among terrain that included dense woods, city buildings and tunnels, their communications were degraded. Using the new technology they could track their last known location and accurately estimate the new location of each Soldier. A chat function allowed everyone to communicate until their regular communications were restored.
“In the woods during a coordinated attack, you have different lines of Soldiers, some upfront, some sweeping from behind,” said SSG Raheim Allen, an EW Soldier with the 1ABCT/31D. “Knowing where that line is provides good situational awareness.”
The kit is made up of small sensors that mitigate the impact of a spoofing or jamming attack. The Soldiers in the exercise wore an Android end unit device (EUD) as the display, but because the technology is compatible with existing EUDs used by Soldiers today, it could be utilized as a software upgrade without the need for the handheld device. The kit provides assured position and navigation information utilizing inertial sensors and can help identify and pinpoint the area where the jamming may be coming from.
“If you lose GPS then the movement of the inertia sensor, with limitations, will tell you if you are going forward or to the right until the GPS picks back up and tells you your location,” Dykes said.
SSG Joseph Powell, an EW Soldier with the 2ABCT/3ID agrees this could be a powerful tool in future fights.
“As an Army moving to a near peer, adversarial fight we will be in a degraded environment, there’s no question about it,” Powell said. “So having equipment that can maintain PNT sensors in a degraded environment will be key to the way we fight.”
Feedback from the capstone event will help fine-tune the longer enduring capability. Then, key capabilities of the prototype are expected to transition to a Program of Record within Program Executive Office Intelligence, Electronic Warfare & Sensors, where it would feed into existing and future Position, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) systems as an added capability. The system has also been closely coordinated with the Army Futures Command Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing/Space Cross Functional Team in aligning to requirements of sensors on the battlefield. Both had representation at the capstone event.
As a rapid prototyping effort of the Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO), the Army expects to field a few of these systems to an operational unit in the 3ID for additional feedback.
“This is a great win for the Army to have these teams all in one place and working towards one common goal – equipping our Soldiers with the best possible gear,” said Stan Darbro, RCCTO Deputy Director. “At the heart of this rapid prototyping effort is getting the new technology into the hands of Soldiers so they can use it in the field and provide feedback. This enables the Army to make an informed decision on whether to invest in the technology or not.”
The dismounted EW kit is the result of the RCCTO’s “pitch day” events held in 2019 and 2020. The EW kit produced by TRX Systems, a small business based in Maryland, was the first technology from the pitch day events placed on contract. Since then, the EW Kit went through concept refinement and demonstrations with significant Soldier input, culminating with the capstone event at Fort Stewart.
The RCCTO is holding its next pitch day event, known now as the Army Strategic Rapid Acquisition (AStRA) Competition during the week of June 28.