ComNavOps has long discussed the need for the military to start training in an electromagnetically challenged environment since that is clearly what we’ll fight in. Stubbornly, the military has refused to conduct serious electromagnetically disrupted training. On the one hand, we have absolute faith in our ability to attack enemy communications, radars, sensors, data links, and networks while, on the other hand, crediting our enemies with no ability to do the same to us. Evidence is mounting, however, that Russian and Chinese forces will routinely employ widespread and powerful electronic countermeasures (ECM). Russian forces in
are reported to have electronic warfare (EW) units
attached even to small units and have operated them quite effectively. Ukraine
On a related note, the Marines are looking to expand the offensive use of EW by distributing jamming pods on all aircraft and even ground vehicles or, ultimately, individual soldiers (1). The EW pod of choice is the Intrepid Tiger II which first appeared in 2012 and, in its airborne guise, is the size and shape of typical Hellfire missiles or simulator pods used in training. Foxtrot Alpha website has a nice description of the pod and its origins (2).
|Intrepid Tiger II Pod - Good Start But Only Half The Story|
The desire by the Marines to include EW pods on many units and at many levels is commendable and, hopefully, signals a budding recognition that we may someday fight a peer opponent rather than the endless series of low end threats we’ve dealt with in recent decades – threats that have allowed us to become stagnant and complacent due to the lack of challenge. Distributing EW widely and at low organizational levels will put a much needed capability at the front lines.
We seem to be slowly recognizing that we need to expand our offensive EW capability. That’s good but what about the flip side? What about defensive EW capabilities? What about our ability to operate in an electromagnetically challenged environment? Can our troops communicate in the face of enemy jamming? Can we navigate without GPS? Will our data links function in the face of ECM? Will our weapon guidance signals get through?
Hand in hand with distributing EW pods to all and sundry aircraft, vehicles, and troops, our forces need to learn how to operate when those EW capabilities are turned on them. I have yet to see much indication that the Marines are making any effort to train in a realistic electromagnetically challenged arena. The Army, at least, has begun to take steps in that direction and the Marines need to follow suit.
All of the above applies equally to the Navy. The Navy has only recently begun to upgrade its venerable (obsolete) SLQ-32 EW equipment and has made no effort to train in an electromagnetically challenged environment. The complacent attitude is that our EW will baffle the enemy and theirs will have no effect on us. Nothing could be further from the truth.
We need to start training like we’ll fight which will be in an electromagnetically degraded condition. A good starting point would be to turn our own EW/ECM capabilities on ourselves in exercises and to do so in an uninhibited manner. Let the EW/ECM people inject themselves into exercises with no constraints and no limitations. If they can totally disrupt a training exercise, so be it. Better to find out now than in actual combat. The argument in the past has been that if we disrupted our own training, we wouldn’t be able to accomplish the goals of the training exercise. That is just complete and utter nonsense. If we can’t accomplish our training goals in the face of EW/ECM then we aren’t prepared, equipped, and trained properly and the reduced training is worse than useless because it leads us to believe that we’re ready. Every athletic coach will tell you that the only thing worse than not practicing is to practice incorrectly and develop bad habits. That’s what we’re doing when we hold back in training.
and Russia aren’t going to hold back on EW/ECM so that we can
accomplish our goals. China
(1)Breaking Defense website, “Marines Aim For Jammers On ‘Every Airplane’”, Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.,
April 01, 2016,
(2)Foxtrot Alpha website, “How The Marines Cheaply And Quickly Built Precision Comm-Jamming Tech”,
Rogoway, Tyler 18-May-2014,