While the renewed recognition of EW may be slow, hesitant, and, thus far, largely ineffective, it’s still good news, isn’t it? Well, yes and no. Yes, it’s good that we’re grudgingly admitting that maybe we should have some EW capability, however, in true US military tradition we’re attempting to leap a generation or two ahead and field a magic-level EW instead of investing in good, solid, functional EW that can be used today.
From a Breaking Defense article describing a new CSBA report on EW,
Despite rising budgets and high-level attention to electronic warfare, the Pentagon’s “efforts have been unfocused and are likely to fail,” warns a congressionally mandated study out today. What the US needs, the Center for Strategic & Budgetary Assessments report says, is a radically new approach that can outfox Russia and China. (1)
There it is … instead of a good, solid, functional EW that can be used today, this report calls for “a radically new approach”. Isn’t radical, revolutionary, leap ahead technology exactly what has failed miserably and repeatedly in the LCS, F-35, Zumwalt, Ford, etc.? So, with that kind of dismal track record for radical new technology staring us in the face, CSBA wants us to do it again? Does that make sense?
China and Russia have invested heavily in traditional platforms – planes, ships, and heavy trucks laden with high-power antennas – and the US just can’t match them on their own terms, CSBA warns. Instead, the US should leapfrog ahead of its adversaries by deploying a new generation of both technology and tactics. (1)
“leapfrog ahead” …
“new generation” …
Isn’t this exactly how we have failed, time and again? How’s that Zumwalt Advanced Gun System doing? How’s that LCS coming along? How are those Ford magic elevators working?
Why do we need to ‘leapfrog ahead’? According to CSBA, it’s because “the US just can’t match” the Russians and Chinese in conventional EW power. What??? The greatest financial, industrial, and military country the world has ever known can’t match Russia and China? Does that sound right to you? Of course we can match and overmatch them, if we choose. Will we choose to match or overmatch them? No! That’s not our way. Our way is to abandon the tried, true, and effective for the promise of technological magic beans.
Sure, let’s develop a new, never before seen generation of EW. Of course, it won’t be ready for decades. What happens if we have to fight a war today? We won’t have any EW.
Here’s the CSBA vision:
Imagine a multi-domain command and control network that can pull together forces from air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace, reorganizing as needed on the fly. The goal: create a dispersed, flexible force our authoritarian adversaries’ centralized systems can’t keep up with. (1)
“command and control”
“on the fly”
No wonder our “authoritarian adversaries’ centralized systems can’t keep up with” us. They don’t have a buzzword bingo scorecard!
Bingo! I just won! “Flexible” was the last word I needed to fill my score card.
Hey, all of that is great and it’s some magnificent buzzword stringing but where’s the real magic beans? It’s right here:
… this kind of networked force could survive enemy attack – physical destruction, hacking, or jamming – by reorganizing itself to pass data around the damaged nodes, Clark & co. argue. (1)
The network reorganizes itself to make itself immune to damage!!!!!!!!!! Whoa, I’m feeling faint. The excitement is too much for me.
Does anyone else have a vision of the most advanced, wondrous, magnificent battle command and control center in the universe (hey, let’s really think big!) being stormed by an enemy soldier with a club, who’s never even heard of electrons, and skull-bashing all our PhD EW specialists without realizing that he was supposed to be helpless before our advanced electronics and artificial intelligence battle management ? We’ll be the most well informed army to lose a war in the history of warfare!
Okay, having [rightfully] mocked yet another leap ahead technology idea, let’s get serious. EW is a vital aspect of modern warfare. We need to be EW capable both offensively and defensively. However, we need a basic level of competency now, not decades from now. The leap ahead F-35 is now pedestrian, if not bordering on obsolete because it’s taken decades to field. Had a major war broken out while we were screwing around with the F-35 development (and we still are), we’d have been forced to fight with 1980’s aircraft. If China provokes a war tomorrow, I don’t want to face them with promises of a future EW capability, I want to face them with actual, existing, functional EW. That means building real capability today, not spending our EW budget on some future concept that probably won’t pan out. How’s that rail gun coming along? Twenty years ago, lasers were just around the corner. Guess what? They’re still around the corner.
Let’s get going on today-EW before we start on tomorrow-EW. Once we’ve fielded actual, functioning EW throughout the military then, by all means, let’s start on the system of tomorrow – but not until then. The US military is constantly chasing the dream of tomorrow at the expense of the capability of today. We need to give up magic beans and stick with the cow (you know, Jack and the Beanstalk).
ComNavOps is all for a leapfrog, next generation EW capability … after we establish today’s capability.
(1)Breaking Defense, “US Electronic Warfare: You’re Doing It Wrong”, Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., 21-Nov-2019,https://breakingdefense.com/2019/11/electronic-warfare-youre-doing-it-wrong/