Army Starts Electronic Warfare Troops

Army Starts Electronic Warfare Troops

They worked on Droids in Star Wars, so why not an al-Qaeda communications center?

“They” are electro-magnetic grenades — not something you’ll find in the typical armory but apparently something that could soon be in the hands of GIs.

“EMP grenade technology is out there, but I’ve never had my hands on one,” said Col. Laurie Buckhout, chief of the newly formed Electronic Warfare Division, Army Operations, Readiness and Mobilization, during a bloggers roundtable Tuesday from the Pentagon.


A Web search for “Electro Magnetic Pulse grenade” turns up a number of hits, many related so Star Wars and gaming sites. One Star Wars-oriented site notes EMPs also are known as Electrostatic Charge Detonators and were an anti-droid weapon used during the Clone Wars.

The EMP grenade was one of several sci-fi type weapons that the military has been developing and, in some cases, fielding. Buckhout also mentioned lasers for taking out missiles and the so-called Active Denial System, which uses microwaves which heat a person’s skin to uncomfortable levels.

The purpose of the roundtable to was discuss the Army’s new Electronic Warfare career field, a 29-series MOS that will include officers, warrant officers and enlisted personnel. The career field grew out of the Army’s need for an expert force able to counter radio-controlled IEDs, though the troops making up the new specialty will be doing more than that, according to the Army; they’ll also be the go-to people for commanders wanting to know how they can exploit the electromagnetic spectrum tactically across their operations.

The Army has wanted an organic EW corps for some time. Personnel responsible for EW in Iraq and Afghanistan are mostly drawn from the Navy and Air Force, according to Buckhout. Using portable jammers, they can dominate the radio spectrum defeat any signal coming from a cell phone or other device used to trigger a roadside bomb.

But there’s a problem: the jammers may also interfere with legitimate radio signals. These can include U.S. troops’ own systems, radio-controlled links to robots used by IED demolition teams and emergency communications systems.

Thus, the Army’s drive to come up with signal-jammers that can be slewed into specific emitters. Large systems, such as those employed by aircraft, can do the job, Buckhout said, but it’s “like using a sledgehammer to kill a mosquito.”

It kills the mosquito, she said, but it does a lot of damage, too.

“The Army needs to have its own … on-the-ground assets to complement our abilities,” she said, “to get the enemy first or stop them from getting us on the ground.”

“Electronic warfare is going to be fought on the ground, not just in the air, and you have to have an attack from the ground point of view.”

The new Army career field will number 1,619 Soldiers in all, and they will come from the active-duty, reserve and National Guard, she said. It will give the Army the largest professional ED cadre of any branch of the U.S. or NATO militaries, she said.

The Soldiers will operate at the battalion, Brigade Combat Team, and division levels, as well as joint billets, she said, enabling the troops to have a full career path available to them.

The equipment they will develop and use, meanwhile, will be tailored for Soldiers. Weapons or systems won’t be heavy or single-purpose, but will allow for electronic attack at different levels. The target may be a small building or a village, she said, and so a small jammer could be used, or EMP grenades.

EW training is being held at Fort Sill, Okla., home of the Army’s artillery school. Buckhout said that’s because EW is seen as something to be targeted and fired, and that’s what they do at Sill.

She said the first EW Soldier should be fielded by the end of Fiscal 2010 and that all authorized positions should be filled by sometime in Fiscal 2011.

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Thanks for the emails. I just signed up with you guys and girls. EW sounds neat, just keep the women and children safe.

sounds great ‚if they can quardenate all the elcteic
gear and radios before they set off the emp it will be a great and wonderful asset. !!!!!!!

Part of the perfect battalion concept. Keep going! Next, hacker squads working simultaneously. Dedicated UAV’s shoulder launchable.

From an IEW perspective, it doesn’t make sense to me to place these capabilities organic to Fires Organizations. Most EW on the ground has been in the form of DF and Jamming for 30 years and organic to IEW resources that can better coordinate DF, GSR, CM-CB and Jamming then report to BCT and receive missions from ATCAE. Who’s finding the targets they will Jam or attack and who is providing BDA back into the scenario to fulfill the kill chain.

This post on jamming and EMP is very interesting.

I thought that Lockheed-Martin had developed just such a counter measure device for use in Iraq. I remember reading that there was some controversy about handing such hi-tech equipment to the Iraqies. The equipment was being used in the field my US forces. It wasn’t of the EMP variety but would cycle throught a bunch of frequencies to jam any signal that was being used to detonate an IED.

The statement “EW is seen as something to be targeted and fired” is inaccurate. That statement, if it applies, describes Electronic Attack (EA), a subset of EW. Words have meaning, and the terms EW and EA are not interchangeable. A quick search of both Joint and Army doctrine is very clear on what is deemed a fires responsibility and what is not.

The Army conducts/has conducted EW with great success all the time; we do it with aplomb and not with a sledge hammer as suggested. Precision EA only complimented by focused ES ensures effects are meted out to the enemy. We’ve done this since the Battle of Jutland, but more cleverly in application and approach as technologies became available. It takes training, adroitness, and education that mitigates an effete and elitist attitude possessed by some of our leadership. The EW campaign also demonstrates that such effects are covert and clandestine ensuring ES and EP equities are cared for, and TTP aren’t revealed. Conducting EW is not like driving up to a McDonald’s drive-thru window.

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