By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Nov. 17, 2008) -- By 2010 the Army expects to have more than 1,500 Soldiers trained in the art of "blinding and deafening" America's enemies by wielding the radio spectrum as a weapon.
The Army has in the past relied heavily on both the Navy and the Air Force for their electronic warfare capability, said Col. Laurie G. Buckhout, the Army's chief of electronic warfare. But the service plans to remedy that by creating a new electronic warfare career field for officers, warrant officers and enlisted members.
"We're going to be able to protect ourselves from spectrum-using threats, which we can't really do for ourselves today," said Buckhout. "We have the Air Force and the Navy doing that for us now and that is getting a little old for them and old for us. We want to be able to attack, blind, deafen and isolate the enemy before he does it to us."
The Army doesn't really plan on making anybody actually blind or deaf. Instead, it plans on providing Soldiers with the training and equipment they need to effectively wage war within the radio spectrum and to apply fires on that new battlefield that can destroy the ability of the enemy to communicate amongst themselves.
"Electronic warfare is the new battlefield, it's our new domain," said Buckhout.
To man the guns on that new battlefield, in both offensive and defensive roles, the Army is creating the 29-series career field for electronic warfare operators and officers.
The Army recently pushed seven officers through a new pilot course at Fort Sill, Okla., a course that will qualify those Soldiers to carry the designation of electronic warfare officer, should Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr. sign off on a Force Design Update sometime next month.
But it's not just officers the Army plans to train. New courses are now being developed for both enlisted Soldiers and for warrant officers. The Army expects to initially man the electronic warfare career field with some 1,511 Soldiers in the rank of sergeant and above. Students are expected to attend classes and become part of the electronic warfare community by 2010.
The new graduates will man positions in Army operations sections, not in intelligence sections, where electronic warfare-types have served in the past, Buckhout said.
"That is a huge change for the Army and it is revolutionary in the way the Army is now looking at holistic electronic warfare -- we're waging war on the spectrum. It's not just for the intelligence community anymore."
The Army does currently have two additional skill-identifier courses in electronic warfare, including the Electronic Warfare Planners course taught at Fort Sill and the Counter RCIED (Remote Control Improvised Explosive Device) Electronic Warfare course to teach CREW operators to use the improvised explosive device-jamming technology. But neither course really trains Soldiers for a career using EW as an offensive weapon. While CREW is a component of electronic warfare, it is a self-defense measure, not an offensive weapon, Buckhout said.
"It's not blinding and deafening the enemy," she said. "It's just kind of protecting yourself. Just like in a foxhole -- only a moving foxhole because we have a protective bubble around us. And that's no way to fight. You're still defensively operating on the battlefield, rather than offensively."
The new career field and a new way to fight with electronic warfare will change all that, Buckhout said. Instead of limiting EW to gathering intelligence or disabling an IED, the Army will use EW as a weapon to inflict damage on the enemy, said Buckhout.
"With EW, you can suppress IEDs, you can stop communications, and you can do suppression of air defenses so you can stop people from shooting at you," she said. "To stop their radars from finding you, you can do radar suppression. You can also use the spectrum to jam or screw up or deceive them on their GPS. Imagine enemy aviators flying and all of the sudden they have no GPS -- that'll screw them up. You can also take out enemy formations the same way, by taking out their radars and sensors and their battle command."
It's no surprise that Soldiers already involved in artillery and other offensive attack-related career fields are showing up and asking to be part of the EW community.
"A lot of fires guys want to be part of this, because electronic attack is a form of fires," said Buckhout. "It is going out and attacking something, and you have to consider battle space, trajectory, targeting, and the effects you want. All these things are done with electronics. So it's the fires and the field artillery guys that are all over this, and they are doing a really good job."
One possible roadblock to moving the Army further forward with EW is getting everybody on board and getting them to understand.
"The other services are ahead of us in some ways, in terms of airborne capabilities -- the Navy and the Air Force in particular," Buckhout said. "The Army is entrenched - it's like trying to bring tanks in to the old cavalry guys, that fight Patton had back in the 30s. It's not just horses anymore, there's a whole new capability out there, a whole new threat. We need to be able to achieve parity -- we have to get past the horse cavalry mentality."