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Army Upgrades Its Electronic Warfare Training

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 22, 2007 – U.S. Army soldiers and insurgents have something in common: They share a single electromagnetic spectrum to communicate and launch attacks.

“The spectrum is that invisible world inhabited by television transmissions, by all sorts of radios, by cell phones, by satellite links, by GPS links,” Army Col. Lauri Moe Buckhout, electronic warfare division chief, told reporters at the Pentagon yesterday.

“In Baghdad you might have American soldiers, coalition soldiers … an Iraqi friendly forces mother and father talking to each other to coordinate a taxi to pick up their sick son and take him to the hospital,” she said. “They are all legitimate users of the spectrum.”

Buckhout said the U.S. forces’ enemies haven’t historically used electronics to wage warfare, but things are changing and the spectrum is wide open.

“In the middle of it, there’s a bad guy using a cell phone to make something bad happen,” she said. “So we have to get good at finding that one hostile spectrum user and take him out.

“Electronic warfare is defined as using the spectrum to attack an enemy, to deny, degrade, defeat the capabilities of an enemy,” Buckhout said. “We need to dominate the spectrum.”

The Army’s fight to dominate electronic warfare is hampered by its lack of experience, she said. The last time the army wielded electronic warfare as a major tactic, soldiers used “barrage jammers” to prevent enemies from using the spectrum. But these former methods are now ineffective, Buckhout said.

“It was a big box that would radiate electronic death and put out a heavy frequency across a wide spectrum,” she said. “You can’t do that any more, because think of all the collateral damage you would have.”

In response to a changing electronic battlefield, Gen. Richard A. Cody, army vice chief of staff, launched two U.S. Army training courses in October, aimed at giving soldiers an edge.

The “Tactical Course,” a three-week session at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., trains soldiers at the battalion level and below. Electronic warfare operators at the brigade level and higher take the “Operational Course,” receiving six weeks of training at the Fort Sill, Okla.

One of Cody’s directives is to make the Army equally competent in electronic warfare as the other services, Buckhout said.

“(Other branches) have electronic warfare professionals who are PhDs in what they do, and we’re just starting out,” she said. “We didn’t have any (electronic warfare) folks, so the Navy stepped up and said, ‘We can help you.’”

These Navy advisors “have been fully integrated, absolutely embraced, and they have taught the Army a whole lot about how to fight this fight,” she said.

The Army plans to replace a majority of those advisors with soldiers by March 2008, she added.

Another goal Cody outlined is to make electronic warfare an Army core competency, meaning every soldier will receive training, she said.

The Army will base its approach in part on the Navy model. “Everyone’s got to touch it now, which is a huge sea change,” Buckhout said. “Each soldier has to understand some basics of electronic warfare – jammers, the threats on the spectrum electronic system that reside in both air and on ground.”

Soldiers, ranging from privates engaged in initial training to the chief of staff of the Army, will receive some level of electronic warfare training, she said.

“The Army needs to get smart in electronic warfare so we can handle ourselves in this environment and take control of it rather than having it take control of us,” she said.

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