Army Enters Cyber and Electronic Warfare Renaissance
Three simultaneous acquisition programs offer interoperability opportunity.
The U.S. Army is enjoying a renaissance period for cyber and electronic warfare (EW) technologies and has a chance to lay a foundation of interoperability in cyber systems, says Col. Kevin Finch, USA, program manager for electronic warfare and cyber within the Program Executive Office-Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors.
Col. Finch made the comments on the final day of the AFCEA TechNet Augusta conference 2019 in Augusta, Georgia. AFCEA added an extra day to the annual conference to highlight procurement and acquisition.
The Army did not invest heavily in cutting-edge electronic warfare equipment while preoccupied with fighting counterinsurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. The primary focus at the time was on electronic warfare equipment to counter improvised explosive devices. But with the U.S. military now planning for a future war against a peer or near-peer adversary such as China or Russia, the Army, along with the rest of the military, is racing to get ahead of competitors.
“We have a force that really hasn’t had EW equipment. We also have a generation of leaders who really had to learn what EW is all about. We’ve been doing a lot of experimentation, administration and prototyping to help get that up to speed,” Col. Finch noted.
And get up to speed it has, he suggested. ““We’re really at a renaissance of electronic warfare and cyber,” he declared.
Part of the reason, he indicated, in the service’s “build, fix, learn methodology” for developing new systems. “We’re really applying modern technology and techniques to this problem set. We’ve gone into a build, fix, learn methodology. We build something. We give it to the soldiers, then we learn, and we fix whatever that is,” he explained.
He cited an effort in which the Army teamed needed to quickly deploy an electronic warfare capability to Europe. “We built an initial capability called Sabre Fury. We learned from that, and then we went back and did another iteration of that,” he recalled. Sabre Fury is a modified version of the DUKE V4/V5 EW system, a component of mobility and communication that is installed on ground vehicles.
The program manager has three major programs beginning nearly simultaneously, which he says offers the Army a major opportunity. The systems are the Terrestrial Layer System (TLS), Multi-Function Electronic Warfare (MFEW)-Air Large, and a program with the self-explanatory title, Offensive Cyber.
The TLS is a ground-based system on trucks on armored vehicles that combines electronic warfare, signals intelligence and cyber capabilities on one platform. “When you talk about cyber being integrated onto different platforms, you’re talking about the Terrestrial Layer System, which is going to be the first EW, [signals intelligence] and cyber platform,” the colonel said.
The MFEW-Air Large concept is expected to provide the Army with an offensive electronic attack and support capability onboard an unmanned aerial system. MFEW Air Large will enable land force commanders to shape the electromagnetic operational environment to their advantage, according to an Army website. It will do so by using the existing Electronic Warfare Planning and Management Tool to provide real-time situational awareness, remote operation and electronic warfare support, among other capabilities.
The program manager’s website does not mention the Offensive Cyber program.
But Col. Finch indicates it is fortuitous the three programs are kicking off at about the same time. “We have a golden opportunity in that we can have these systems be interoperable with each other. We’re at the point where we can make a huge difference in making sure we have some programs that are no longer stovepiped,” he said.
He added that he does not want the opportunity to go to waste. “I can’t control the world, but I can control my portfolio. From that perspective, we have a golden opportunity here, and I don’t want to squander it. We can take a holistic look at how these are going to be operationally employed and how I can make it where they are more useful for the commandant commanders,” he said.