Army to make enemy networks the next battleground

Technical, operational issues abound as service pushes its aerial envelope

Army forces in Afghanistan are testing several small and sophisticated aircraft packages that will broaden their ability to exploit the electromagnetic spectrum, reports Sean Meade at Aviation Weeks’ Ares Blog.

The push for development of aircraft that can conduct offensive operations of either an electromagnetic or cyber nature against enemy forces is being done partly because of the realization that enemy forces will grow more sophisticated as the conflict drags on.

Therefore, Army officials have resolved to more clearly define their cyber and electronic warfare policies, train a specialized cyber and electronic attack force, and push more advanced technology out to laboratories in the field. On top of this, Army officials plan to emphasize the importance of creating shared networks for ground and air systems.

Army specialists are rolling lessons learned from its cancelled Aerial Common Sensor (ACS) program into its new Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance System (EMARS) aircraft that carries electro-optical, infrared sensor and signals intelligence.

Efforts are also continuing to upgrade UH-60 and RC-12 electronic surveillance aircraft.

Unmanned systems also might be outfitted for airborne electronic attack, Army officials said.

As part of these efforts, the Army also wants to define when and where cyber tools become battlefield weapons and cross into the tactical combat world.

The basic components of airborne electronic or cyber attack are:

  • A sensor that can map an enemy network.
  • The precise location of an antenna that feeds the network.
  • An electronically scanned array antenna that can generate a data stream packed with inquisitive algorithms in order to enter and exploit a targeted enemy network.

However, Army officials are grappling with whether exploiting such a targeted network is actually part of their tactical operations and, if so, whether they have personnel with the proper skills and clearances to do that work.

Operational questions abound. For example, Once an enemy network is deemed worth targeting, it would be necessary to establish whether the best approach of attack is by ground, unmanned aerial vehicle, manned airborne system or a joint system. Then a decision would have to be made whether it is best to jam, snoop, change the information that the network is disseminating or simply destroy it.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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