Wizeus > Religious Affairs
| Video Links
| Book Reviews
Defense News | 03Aug2015 | Joe Gould
Electronic Warfare: What
US Army Can Learn From Ukraine
In my opinion, the dominance and effectiveness of Russian electronic
warfare against Ukraine from the Euromaidan revolution to the present
day has been woefully under-rated and under-reported. "Russia maintains
an ability to destroy command-and-control networks by
jamming radio communications, radars and GPS signals." Although the US
military has good defensive electronic monitoring capabilities, it is
now scrambling to match Russia's capability in offensive electronic
WASHINGTON -- The US military has for weeks been training Ukrainian
forces in US tactics, but the commander of US Army Europe says
Ukrainian forces, who are fighting Russian-backed separatists, have
much to teach their US trainers.
Ukrainian forces have grappled with formidable Russian electronic
warfare capabilities that analysts say would prove withering even to
the US ground forces. The US Army has also jammed insurgent
communications from the air and ground on a limited basis, and it is
developing a powerful arsenal of jamming systems, but these are not
expected until 2023.
"Our soldiers are doing the training with the Ukrainians and we've
learned a lot from the Ukrainians," said Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges. "A third
of the [Ukrainian] soldiers have served in the ... combat zone, and no
Americans have been under Russian artillery or rocket fire, or
significant Russian electronic warfare, jamming or collecting -- and
these Ukrainians have. It's interesting to hear what they have learned."
Hodges acknowledged that US troops are learning from Ukrainians about
Russia's jamming capability, its ranges, types and the ways it has been
employed. He has previously described the quality and sophistication of
Russian electronic warfare as "eye-watering."
Russia maintains an ability to destroy command-and-control networks by
jamming radio communications, radars and GPS signals, according to
Laurie Buckhout, former chief of the US Army's electronic warfare
division, now CEO of the Corvus Group. In contrast with the US, Russia
has large units dedicated to electronic warfare, known as EW, which it
dedicates to ground electronic attack, jamming communications, radar
and command-and-control nets.
Though Ukrainian troops lack the materiel to protect themselves from
this form of attack, the Ukrainian military's institutional knowledge
as a former Soviet republic will help it understand how Russia fights,
and its troops will have trained to operate while being jammed,
Buckhout said. That's something US ground forces can learn.
"Our biggest problem is we have not fought in a comms-degraded
environment for decades, so we don't know how to do it," Buckhout said.
"We lack not only tactics, techniques and procedures but the training
to fight in a comms-degraded environment."
It's not hard to see why EW is an attractive option for Russia while
the eyes of the world are on it. Not only is it highly effective, but
as a non-kinetic form of attack, it is harder to trace and less likely
to be viewed as overt aggression, and as such, less likely to incite
the ire of the international community, Buckhout said.
In a fight, Russia's forces can hinder a target's ability to respond
to, say, an artillery attack, allowing them to fire on an enemy with
impunity. Ukrainian forces would be unable to coordinate a defense
against incoming rockets and missiles, or release counter battery fire.
"If your radars don't see incoming fire, you can't coordinate
counterfire," Buckhout said.
The US, Buckhout said, lacks a significant electronic attack capability.
"We have great signals intelligence, and we can listen all day long,
but we can't shut them down one-tenth to the degree they can us," she
said. "We are very unprotected from their attacks on our network."
Col. Jeffrey Church, the Army's electronic warfare division chief,
acknowledged that since the Cold War, adversaries have continued to
modernize their EW capabilities, while the Army began reinvesting its
capabilities for Iraq and Afghanistan. Church called the fielding of
Army electronic warfare equipment the "No. 1 priority" of his job.
"The Army must have electronic warfare capabilities that
could be used to dominate key terrain on the electromagnetic spectrum
against any adversary," Church said.
A developing Army program, Multifunctional Electronic Warfare (MFEW),
is intended to provide an offensive electronic attack capability, able
to jam cell phone, satellite and GPS signals, said Lt. Col. Gregory
Griffin, chief of the Electronic Warfare Division's programs and
requirements branch. However, the focus had been until recent years on
"defensive electronic attack," namely counter-radio-controlled-IED
devices that create bubbles of protective jamming around vehicles and
people, and signals collection for intelligence purposes.
The Army has demonstrated some ability to counter enemy communications,
not under formal acquisitions programs but as quick-reaction
capabilities. In Afghanistan, the Army used a handful of C-12 aircraft
equipped with Caesar jamming pods to jam insurgent push-to-talk radios,
and two fixed-site systems -- Ground Auto Targeting
Observation/Reactive (GATOR) jammer and Duke V2 EA -- to jam radios and
On an ad hoc basis, troops in Afghanistan used GATOR -- conceived to
protect forward operating bases -- to suppress repeater towers while on
patrol or training Afghan forces, providing themselves the freedom to
maneuver while denying communications to potential enemies, Griffin
"It was unlimited capability, limited by the number of systems,"
Griffin said. "Honestly, we just did not have enough to support the
demand that was in the Army."
The Army's electronic warfare cadre, which totals 813 officers, warrant
officers and noncommissioned officers, has wielded more
theory than hardware, except when deployed. In garrison, it was common
for these troops to be assigned other jobs, leading to the joke that EW
stands for "extra worker" -- though this is changing as the Army ramps
up its electronic warfare materiel strategy, Griffin said.
MFEW, due to reach initial operating capability in 2023 and full
operating capability in 2027, is intended to offer a suite of powerful,
sophisticated sensors and jammers for in the air, on ground vehicles
and in fixed locations. The Army is due to consider a capability design
document for the "air large" capability, akin to Caesar, potentially
for a C-12 or a MQ-8 Fire Scout drone. Last year it tested the
Networked Electronic Warfare Remotely Operated (NERO), a jamming pod
attached to the Gray Eagle drone.
The Defense Department in March set up a panel to address its
electronic warfare shortfalls, which, Griffin said, has generated
discussion about accelerating the timeline for MFEW.
'Future of War Is in the
Forces with US Army Europe have for the last 10 weeks been training
three battalions of Ukraine Ministry of the Interior troops, known as
Ukraine's national guard. The second cycle of that training was paused
so that troops could participate in a combined multinational exercise,
underway through early August, and it will resume and conclude with the
third battalion in August.
The Ukrainian military -- which is in the midst of a reform and
modernization effort even as it wars with Russia -- has shown interest
in creating a noncommissioned officer corps modeled after that of the
US, Hodges said. Ukrainian military officials charged with reform
efforts visited Washington in recent weeks and, in a press conference,
acknowledged the challenges of corruption and shoddy soldier equipment,
which they sought to correct.
But Konstiantyn Liesnik, an adviser to the Defense Ministry's reform
office and head of its working group for logistics and procurement,
noted the US military's experience in recent years has concerned
insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, not a powerful, organized and
well-equipped adversary like Russia.
"The future of war is in the Ukraine, and I think in this case our
experience is very important to US personnel how war should be in this
century and next century," Liesnik said.
Beyond electronic warfare, Russian anti-aircraft rockets have prevented
Ukrainian forces from using their airplanes, and it has had to consider
personal armor that can protect against artillery.
Ukrainian forces interacting with US soldiers have spoken frankly about
their difficulties, something Hodges said he saw firsthand when the
chief of the Ukrainian Army, at an event attended by senior leaders
from other countries, discussed with a group of officers his
force's battlefield experiences and shortcomings.
"I have been very impressed with the earnestness of the Ukrainian
military to fix their shortcomings and improve their capabilities,"
Hodges said. "It was one of the most professional things I have ever
seen of any army, and they were very candid: We were not prepared to do
this, and here's how we adapted."
Ukrainian troops have not only had to adapt to Russian electronic
warfare, but its artillery and unmanned aerial systems. A senior Army
official, Hodges said, detailed how unprepared Ukrainian troops have
been for the number of casualties and their treatment.
The US provided Ukraine with lightweight counter-mortar radars in
November 2014, which Hodges said its troops have "used in ways we have
not used it ourselves, and made it more effective than we thought was
possible." These troops, he said, would be savvy enough to operate a
more advanced radar with a wider range -- which the Pentagon is
reportedly in talks to send.
An official at the US State Department said the administration believes
there is no military resolution to this crisis, but Ukraine has the
right to defend itself. To that end, it announced a $75 million Defense
Department aid package in March that includes 30 armored Humvees, 200
other Humvees, radios and unarmed surveillance drones, night-vision
devices and medical supplies.
The 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, based in Vicenza, Italy, had
been training Ukrainian troops in western Ukraine, in battlefield
medicine, casualty evacuation, and tactical tasks such as anti-roadside
bomb techniques and basic battlefield movement.
Saber Guardian, a command post exercise which rotates between Ukraine,
Romania and Bulgaria, this year was linked to Rapid Trident, an annual
field training exercise held in Ukraine, according to the US Army. The
combined exercise, which includes roughly 1,800 soldiers from 18
different nations, is meant to focus on defensive operations to ensure
a safe and secure environment within the operating environment.
This year's scenario consists of a host nation that comes under attack.
The nation is able to defend itself at great cost. A multinational
force is sent to assist the host nation and the challenge is to bring
together and train a multinational brigade, which would then be sent to
assist the host nation in its defense.
Email: [email protected]