Return of Ground-Based Electronic Warfare Platforms and Force Structure

By Spring-Glace, Maj Morgan J. | Military Review, July/August 2019 | Go to article overview

Return of Ground-Based Electronic Warfare Platforms and Force Structure


Spring-Glace, Maj Morgan J., Military Review


The U.S. military is not achieving overmatch against the Russian military, as Timothy Bonds of the RAND Corporation testified to the House Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces in 2017. The testimony cited Russian capability modernization and force availability as the contributors to losing overmatch. Of the capability modernization, Bonds specified new systems or improvements to existing systems among tanks, artillery, fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft, sophisticated and tiered air defense networks, long-range missiles, and cyberspace and electromagnetic warfare capabilities.1

Most of these capabilities also reside in the current force of the U.S. Army, and modernization efforts are ongoing to mitigate disparities. However, some most notably electronic warfare (EW), specifically electronic attack (EA), were culled from the U.S. Army between the end of the Cold War and the building of the BCT-centric Army for Iraq and Afghanistan. While the Army retains some of its EW capability in the form of signals intelligence (SIGINT, also known as EW support), EA systems such as the AN/MLQ-34 TACJAM and the AN/TLQ-17A TRAFFIC JAM were taken out of the inventory with no replacement, and formations dedicated to providing functional support to combat brigades and divisions were inactivated. These drawdowns were made under the assumption that Army forces can rely on their joint partners for EA capabilities. However, Field Manual 3-0, Operations, and Training and Doctrine Command Pamphlet 525-3-8, U.S. Army Concept: Multi-Domain Combined Arms Operations at Echelons Above Brigade 2025-2045, state that all domains will be contested, and the Army cannot continuously rely on joint partners when faced with peer and near-peer competitors such as Russia or China, both of which are capable of challenging U.S. air and electromagnetic superiority.2 Since the bulk of current U.S. EA capability resides in the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy, and Chinese and Russian capability contests the other services' ability to support Army forces, how can the Army reliably benefit from EA capability? One answer is that the U.S. Army must bring back ground-based EA and deception platforms, and requisite force structure. This is necessary to mitigate the gap in overmatch that U.S. Army forces are currently facing.

Peer Adversary Electronic Warfare Capability

Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea possess peer or near-peer military capability, and other states possess aspects of that level of threat. To understand the gap between U.S. EA capability and peer adversaries, we will primarily examine Russia.

Russia is able to integrate cyberspace and EW capabilities across the tactical, operational, and strategic levels. At the strategic and operational levels, Russia has organized five total EW brigades, with two EW brigades in its Western Military District. This allocation is only from the Russian Ground Forces (RGF) and does not include the Russian navy and air force EW units.3 Operational and strategic RGF EW forces seek to confuse and deceive opposing force military decision-makers at all levels. This is achieved by combining cyberspace and information warfare capabilities while also protecting operational-level assets and preventing access to an area of conflict by integrating air defense capability as part of an anti-access/area-denial strategy.4 Each RGF EW brigade consists of four EW battalions, which can accomplish operational and strategic tasks or support smaller RGF units such as divisions or lower.5

At the tactical level, the RGF maneuver brigades have an EW company, an unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) company, and an intelligence support platoon (see figure, page 43).6 Within an EW company are twelve vehicle-mounted EW platforms and fifteen man-portable jammers staffed with approximately one hundred personnel.7 Each of the truck-mounted jammers have a different function, and the RGF EW company provides an array of communications, radar, and other jamming capabilities to the brigade commander. …

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