Army units in Europe first to get electronic warfare upgrade
By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 8, 2018
STUTTGART, Germany — U.S. ground units in Europe are the first in the Army to be outfitted with new sensors designed to protect troop formations from Russian cyber intrusion and better challenge adversaries in an increasingly contested electronic warfare battle space.
Delivery of the equipment will be completed later this month, the Army said.
“This equipment will provide additional sensors on the battlefield to contribute to the commander’s common operating picture, and assist in driving the targeting process,” said Capt. Sean Lynch, an electronic warfare officer with the Vilseck, Germany-based 2nd Cavalry Regiment.
The new electronic warfare systems ensure that commanders at the brigade level and lower can “geolocate enemy emitters” and “deny tactical communications,” Lynch said in a statement.
The moves to better equip units for electronic warfare come as the Pentagon is shifting its focus to sophisticated threats posed by Russia and China.
The 2018 National Defense Strategy, released last month, warns that the U.S. military's advantage over “near-peer” adversaries is eroding. Among the operational concerns is that Russia’s advanced electronic warfare systems could jam radio and allied GPS networks.
U.S. Army units in Europe have been grappling with such concerns for the past three years as operations have intensified along NATO’s eastern flank.
Russia’s deployment of electronic jammers to disrupt Ukrainian military radio communication has also caught the attention of American commanders.
“Russia knows how we roll,” now-retired Gen. Philip Breedlove warned in 2016 when he was head of U.S. European Command. “They have invested a lot in electronic warfare because they know we are a connected and precise force and they need to disconnect us to make us imprecise.”
After Russia’s 2014 intervention in Ukraine, efforts to adapt began to rise to the unit level. In 2015, the 2nd Cavalry Regiment requested more powerful guns, which finally arrived in December in the form of new 30 mm autocannons mounted on the unit’s Stryker vehicles.
Electronic warfare gear has also been gradually coming online. Besides the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, soldiers with the Vicenza, Italy-based 173rd Airborne Brigade and the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, are all slated to receive the latest equipment this month.
The technology, developed in response to an operational needs request from U.S. Army Europe, is considered an interim fix while the Army continues development on more advanced electronic warfare capabilities.
“These soldiers are the Army’s first users of dedicated electronic warfare capabilities for brigade and below, and among the most advanced in Army; we are already seeing them build impressive tactics, techniques and procedures from the ground up as well as task organize to best achieve their commander’s desired end state,” Col. Marty Hagenston, an Army project manager for electronic warfare, said in a statement.