• The Secure Mobile Anti-Jam Reliable Tactical Terminal, a Desert Storm-era system, could save lives on the modern battlefield, says the NETCOM commander.
     The Secure Mobile Anti-Jam Reliable Tactical Terminal, a Desert Storm-era system, could save lives on the modern battlefield, says the NETCOM commander.

NETCOM Commander Touts SMART-T

August 9, 2017
By George I. Seffers
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High-frequency technologies could be used to counter cellphone propaganda campaigns.

The Russian military has been using a clever—and lethal—propaganda technique against Ukrainian soldiers. They spam the soldiers’ cellphones with demoralizing messages and then take advantage of the resulting confusion to geolocate the soldiers’ cellphone signals and launch an attack.

Maj. Gen. John Baker, USA, commanding general, U.S. Army Network Enterprise Technology Command (NETCOM), described the technique to the AFCEA TechNet Augusta audience about one week after he had been briefed on the situation by a Ukrainian major in Germany.

The spammed texts include such messages as:

"Your battalion commander has retreated. Take care of yourself."

"You are encircled. Surrender. This is your last chance."

"It’s better to retreat alive than to stay here and die."

At the same time, a soldier’s family may get a message that the soldier has been killed in action. The distraught family member calls the soldier, tying up some of the bandwidth the military needs and sowing confusion. “All the while he’s getting these messages, he’s trying to put his family at ease, he’s staying put, his position is being geolocated and he’s now taking incoming missile and artillery fire, and about 20 minutes after that, [the Russians] are pushing infantry and armored formations onto the objective,” Gen. Baker reported.

The commander said he has been pushing commanders to use high-frequency systems already in the inventory because “that’s a band of the spectrum where we’re generally not being tested.”

He specifically cited the Secure Mobile Anti-Jam Reliable Tactical Terminal (SMART-T) system, which formed the backbone of his battalion’s satellite communications capability when he deployed as a battalion commander to Iraq in 2003-2004.

Unfortunately, the systems are so complex, soldiers do not like to use them, the general said. “As I travel the globe over the last year, I’m finding that almost none of them are being deployed today because they’re at a level of complexity that perplexes our soldiers in many cases,” he stated.

He related that he recently talked to a signal officer for a “regionally aligned force” tasked with protecting a specific region. They didn’t take their SMART-T with them. They left it back in the states where it could do them absolutely no good,” Gen. Baker said.

He recommended using the entire available spectrum. “As we look at the spectrum ... what I’m telling my teammates is to use all of it because we have a lot of capacity we could tap into, and then when [Russian-stye] spam messages come out, we have a command and control system that is immediately available to counter that kind of messaging,” he offered.

He also touted the Iridium satellite system, saying he pays the Defense Information Systems Agency more than $30 million annually for Iridium support. “But when we go out and ping the 7500 Iridium devices, I would argue that very few of them are turned on. The majority are sitting in containers locked away,” Gen. Baker said. “That’s a capability we have that we have to push our commanders to put back out into the field and get our soldiers off of using cellular technology that would put them at risk.”

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Perhaps if the SMART-T backend technology was installed in a hardened consumer technology that everyone has already embraced in personal lives (e.g. iPhone), adoption would be high. Consumer world has left everyone else in their dust, so why not add bulletproof protected spectrum techniques to it and deliver what people know and love to the battle space? This would also foster innovation by enabling a huge pool of Apps/App creators to build a lot of low cost tools to add to inventory.

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