When the EA-6B Prowler electronic-warfare plane first entered service with the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps starting in 1971, its main job was to scramble enemy radars and radios with its powerful jammers.
But with the Marines and the other U.S. armed services facing severe shortages of various planes, the few remaining Prowlers are now filling in — as flying spies over Iraq.
In May 2016, the main Pentagon’s task force in charge of the war on Islamic State posted a series of pictures of different aircraft on Facebook — and at least one included a Prowler. The photograph was notable, since the jet from Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron Four was carrying a targeting pod instead of its normal jamming gear.
n January 2015, the Marine Corps told War Is Boring that its Prowlers were helping fight Islamic State, but had declined to provide any specifics. The jets were likely flying missions from the Marines’ main air hub at Ahmed Al Jaber Air Base in Kuwait. In April, more Marine EA-6Bs arrived at Incirlik air base in Turkey.
“Prowlers … provide an umbrella of protection to coalition aircraft and ground troops in the fight against Da’esh by degrading Da’esh communications,” Air Force major Omar Villarreal, the media operations chief at the flying branch’s top command for the Middle East, told War Is Boring via email, using another common name for Islamic State.
Thankfully, terrorists in Iraq don’t have any long-range, radar-guided surface-to-air missiles for the Prowlers to jam. But with Islamic State proving to be both highly organized and especially propaganda savvy, there have been more than enough opportunities to shut down the group’s communications networks, radio broadcasts and more.
Read the Remainder at War is Boring
In an article I wrote on FO about Russia’s EW Capabilities, I showed how NATO commanders were concerned about how far ahead Russia was in this department. That concern has not diminished, and for good reason as the article below shows. -SF
Much has been written about the weakness of the Russian military. Commentators describe it as a“paper tiger” that would not be effective against the more advanced weaponry of NATO. Even Pres. Barack Obama boasts that the American military is superior to Russia’s.
When it comes to traditional conventional weapons there is much truth to these assertions. However, these claims of Washington’s military superiority overlook a key fact. In the event of a war, Moscow possesses some critical asymmetrical advantages vis-à-vis the United States that the Kremlin would surely seek to exploit.
Russia’s electronic warfare strategy in Ukraine is one example of this. According to a recent articlein Foreign Policy, after Russian electronic warfare equipment began arriving in Ukraine, Ukrainian troops noticed a problem — their phones and radios were unusable for hours at a time, essentially cutting off units’ ability to communicate with each other.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe also felt the effect of Russia’s electronic warfare capabilities. On at least three separate occasions the OSCE reported its monitoring drones were subjected to military-grade electronic warfare while flying over territory controlled by the Russian-supported separatists. In each case, they were rendered blind and forced to end their missions.
Russia’s use of electronic warfare in Ukraine represents just the tip of the iceberg.
Russia’s advanced electronic warfare capabilities elucidates a broader point. The U.S. military’s superiority depends on advanced communications and electronics, yet these expensive advanced systems are highly susceptible to Russia’s advanced jamming abilities.
Read the Remainder at War is Boring
The Defense Department’s recent emphasis on the importance of the electromagnetic spectrum could be coming to a head, as the department is considering recognizing the spectrum as a sixth domain of operations, in addition to land, air, sea, space and cyberspace, which officially was declared a domain in 2011.
In a statement to Breaking Defense, DOD CIO Terry Halvorsen said, “the Department will investigate all requirements and ramifications of its enactment, to include the potential recognition of the EMS as a domain.”
Several, if not all, operations currently rely on the electromagnetic spectrum, which is why the military is placing greater importance on electronic warfare. Countries such as China and Russia have beenhoning advanced capabilities, such as the ability to jam GPS and other signals, within this sphere. The United States, meanwhile, has largely neglected EW, spending the last 14 years focused on the mostly uncontested spectrum environments in the Middle East, as several military officials have recently noted.
In March of 2014, DOD released a directive to update its EW policywhile setting goals for acquisition, development, validation and oversight. The directive called for the integration of EW into the full range of military operations, in all domains and in joint exercises, as well as the procurement of new EW systems.
The military recently has been bolstering its EW and broader electromagnetic spectrum capabilities through contracts and industry events. The Navy in July awarded a $155 million contract for electronic warfare systems upgrades aboard ships and in October awarded a $91.7 million deal for the next phase of work under the Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program. The Air Force recently conducted radar tests as part of the Combat Shield exercise – the service’s response to the “Spectrum Interference Resolution Program” that mandates major commands have independent EW system evaluation programs – and issued a solicitation for an electronic warfare test kit in to test and simulate certain EW prototypes that will involve evaluating certain waveforms and record jammer responses. The Marine Corps recently awarded a contract for a portable, backpack-able electronic warfare system for blocking improvised explosive detonation signals as well as conducting offensive operations against enemy communications.
Read the Original Article at Defense Systems