Managing the spectrum for electronic warfare

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was updated Dec. 15, 2011, to correct the name of the Communication Electronic Attack with Surveillance and Reconnaissance (CAESAR) program.

Col. Rod Mentzer is the project manager for Electronic Warfare at the Army’s Program Executive Office for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Surveillance (IEW&S).

In this interview with Defense Systems Editor-in-Chief Barry Rosenberg, Mentzer was joined by Michael Ryan, deputy program manager for EW. They discussed combining Army and Navy counter-improvised explosive device (IED) technology and managing the spectrum for all defensive and offensive electronic warfare technologies and capabilities.

DS: What’s at the top of your to do list?

Mentzer: There are two things at the top of both Mike and my to do list. First one is we have a ground counter-IED system for the Army called Duke, and the Navy has a current and future program called Joint Counter Radio Controlled Improvised Explosive Device Electronic Warfare [JCREW] 3.3. The rumors on the street are JCREW 3.3 is going to transition to the Army, so we have to figure out what that means fiscally and programmatically. It is not fact yet, but that is something that is on our plate. What is fact is that our current CREW system, Duke, has finite legs into the future because they have been in the force for several years now and some of the electrical components in them need to be replaced.

So as the Army comes out of Afghanistan and Iraq, we’re establishing a global reaction force under which we are going to preposition stocks of equipment to meet wheels-up emergencies on a global scale. We have a requirement for our systems in those fleets. So one of the things we are doing Monday in the Pentagon [the first business day after the Thanksgiving holiday, Nov. 28] is meeting with the G-3 and the G-8 to figure out how we best provision and procure equipment to meet that global reaction force requirement.

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DS: Is anything particularly unique or worthy within the Navy JCREW system that you would like to incorporate into the Army system?

Ryan: I am sure somewhere on your list of questions you want to talk about Integrated EW Systems [IEWS]. [We have] new start programs that are going to kick off this year or next depending on the budget. This is a family of systems for defensive electronic attack, which is the force protection CREW mission; and offensive electronic attack, which is a ground family of systems — mounted, dismounted, fixed site and airborne components — that go after enemy communication, and command and control. We also have an EW planning and management tool to support the electronic warfare officers [EWOs] that we have out there today. So we do view the technology and architecture work that went into the JCREW 3.3 family system design as something that we could leverage.

DS: Is there anything like DCGS [Distributed Common Ground System] to integrate all these EW products?

Ryan: There are three lines of effort. There is the multifunctional EW effort, which is focused on the near-term offensive. There is the defensive electronic attack, DEA, which is essentially the CREW family of systems. Right now we only have Duke, which is our mounted solution; everything else is a quick reaction capability, not a program of record.

The third is EW planning and management tools. That is where we would give the EWO the ability to do mission rehearsal, pre-mission planning, modeling and simulation of the environment and the EW assets during the fight, and command and control of those assets, dynamic re-tasking of those assets. There is also some information to collect because these are sensors. So this suite of tools that we are going to provide the EWO will be applications riding on some existing server somewhere in an effects cell, and that is where we would control the EW fight. So that would be [near] equivalent to DCGS on the intelligence side.

DS: Colonel, you were going to mention a second priority that you were working on.

Mentzer: That would be exactly what you guys were just talking about. Monday morning we have a briefing on the future of Army CREW, Duke systems and potentially JCREW merging into the Army. So we have to get a clear validated requirement of exactly what they want us to do, and then how do we fund and procure that solution set.

Tuesday’s discussion is the program objective memorandum brief where we are going to layout requirements and budget and support to get to the integrated electronic warfare system that Mike was describing to you.

DS: What are the primary EW needs in Afghanistan today? How would you characterize what it is that you need to deploy to theater to address that threat?

Mentzer: Of course, the counter RCIED [Remote Control IED] mission is probably forever. That’s just going to be a part of our life from now on and that’s what the CREW systems were designed to do. There are also requirements coming out of Afghanistan that are driving us towards developing this IEWS with the ability to do offensive electronic attack so as to deny the enemy freedom of maneuver within the spectrum.

So we have that need [that] is being met near term in Afghanistan by quick reaction capabilities that we are working [on] with our scientists at Aberdeen Proving Ground specifically out of CERDEC [Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center]. Some of the programmatic pieces of that are being done within our office here, primarily by our chief engineer, Fran Orzech, who is running those programs for us to make sure that we get systems into the fight that they are looking right now to helpful eliminate some of the enemies capabilities.

DS: What are some of those specific quick-reaction programs?

Mentzer: There are three. One is recapitalizing on existing Duke systems, which we call Duke V2 Electronic Attack. For this, we took our Duke systems and re-provisioned with different amplifiers and antennas to give them a different mission set. One coming out of the laboratories over here is called GATOR [Ground Auto Targeting Observation Reactive Jammer]. The third one is more of an experimental program coming out of the Rapid Equipment Force, and we worked with them, as well as some sister-brother PMs down on Huntsville, and that is putting a jammer system onto an aircraft. That is called CAESAR [Communication Electronic Attack with Surveillance and Reconnaissance].

Those are the three primary offensive capabilities that are going in. And along with those is the need for some a planning tool to configure how we are going to manage the spectrum when we have CREW systems jamming the spectrum, Blue Force capabilities trying to talk in the spectrum, and now we are actually jamming other communication spectrum from the enemy so as to deny them. So there is a lot happening in that spectrum, and it is not being really well managed today.

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