• Credit: Shutterstock/K_E_N
     Credit: Shutterstock/K_E_N

Deceptive Electronic Warfare in Multidomain Operations

November 19, 2020
By Julianne Simpson
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The Army hopes to begin fielding a modular electromagnetic spectrum deception suite in coming years.

The complexity of multidomain operations presents both challenges and opportunities in the effort to obtain an information advantage. To overcome these challenges and exploit the opportunities to gain an edge, the Army is modernizing.

“We are modernizing the Army to fight and win in large-scale combat ops and no longer focused on countering violent extremist organizations as we have been in the past 20 years,” said Steven D. Rehn of the U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence Capability Development Integration Directorate during the second in a series of TechNet Augusta webinars leading up to the hybrid event January 25-28, 2021.

The catch is the United States will not have the advantages it possessed in the past in a potential armed conflict with peer adversaries. “We will be under constant surveillance from space, drones, advanced intelligence systems and capabilities, observations published on social media through third parties,” said Rehn. “In essence what we do and our actions will be assumed to be seen and reported to our adversaries.”

The Army will be operating in a cyberspace environment that is contested daily with multiple adversaries from nation states to individual actors, simultaneously on multiple fronts at any given point and time, Rehn added.

The electromagnetic spectrum is also being contested both from the adversaries' disruption as well as the immense amount of electromagnetic spectrum usage, “which will be challenging in and of ourselves to find efficient use of the spectrum,” he said.

For the future, the Army is looking at a deceptive capability called modular electromagnetic spectrum deception suite, or MEDS. It will be used to help deceive the enemy and slow his decision cycle based on the ability to create dilemmas within his sensing capability to determine where we are utilizing electromagnetic spectrum, Rehn said.

Though essentially only a concept right now, the hope is to omit an electromagnetic spectrum to do several things, explained Rehn. “One is how do I use that deceptive capability to replicate the emissions that I would see from our friendly forces, whether that force is a small unit or even a core command post, to be able to replicate both the ops tempo, the type of traffic, the volume of traffic, to mimic those organizations,” he said.

Ultimately the goal is to deceive the enemy, to cause dilemmas to him, for the enemy to waste resources attempting to figure out if the organization using the electromagnetic spectrum is fake or real. That then decreases the enemy’s decision cycle, which gives the U.S. an advantage on the battlefield, Rehn stated.

MEDS can also be used to introduce noise on the battlefield, “whether that’s replicating a friendly force or replicating additional noise in the [electromagnetic spectrum] that causes the enemy to go through that mimic or the noise to figure out where I’m actually at within inside the battlespace,” said Rehn.

The Army's capability manager for electronic warfare is charged with looking after the development of MEDS. There’s a learning demand for it, Rehn stated, and some limited prototype testing, which is more about gaining knowledge and understanding, he added.

Some technologies were demonstrated at Cyber Quest 2020 in September and the Army is looking at Cyber Quest 2021 to also demonstrate some technologies to help them learn how to use MEDS and what exactly it is that the Army wants for a specific capability.

Moving forward, “we’ll assess learning demands not just through Cyber Quest but other venues and we’ll look at pushing [MEDS] as a capability for the Army, with probably some fielding of it rapidly within the next several years,” Rehn explained.

To view the webinar on-demand visit www.afcea.org/site/webinars-demand.

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