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Militaries developing Joint Cyber, Space, EW, Signals intelligence and Communications operations and technologies for future battlefield

A simulated tank assault was deterred using cyber weapons and electronic warfare technology during a training exercise, according to Defense Systems. Trainers stopped a simulated assault by targeting the tank crew’s radio and communication systems during the exercise at the Army’s National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California.

“These tanks had to stop, dismount, get out of their protection, reduce their mobility,” Capt. George Puryear, an Irregular Operations Officer at Fort Irwin told Defense Systems in the report. The vulnerability allowed the tanks to be easily defeated.

The broad category of cyber warfare includes jamming communication signals and infiltrating networks, both of which were demonstrated during the exercise. If a network is successfully infiltrated, it can be disabled or manipulated, allowing enemies to halt communication or relay false information to troops. The demonstration allowed the Army to explore the possibilities of infiltrating civilian networks to subdue the populace and invade territories, an official told Defense Systems.

US Army has disbanded its electronic warfare division, incorporating it EW division into a newly established cyber directorate at the Pentagon within the Army G-3/5/7, according to officials at Army headquarters. This is implementation of US Army’s  Cyber electromagnetic vision, defined as activities leveraged to seize, retain, and exploit an advantage over adversaries and enemies in both cyberspace and the electromagnetic spectrum, while simultaneously denying and degrading adversary and enemy use of the same and protecting the mission command system.

US Army is not alone in looking for integrated EW-Cyber capabilities. The U.S. Air Force (USAF) is looking to expand its traditional electronic countermeasures capability to include the ability to carve into an enemy’s computer network from the air. Officials of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL)  also wants to integrate HPEM directed energy weapons with cyber warfare and traditional electronic warfare.

The U.S. Navy has embraced the electromagnetic (EM)-Cyber domain as a core warfighting domain, combining critical Navy communities in Information Warfare, Intelligence, Information Professional, Meteorology, Oceanography and Space Operations into an “Information Dominance” Corps.

“Adversaries are incorporating traditional electronic warfare (EW) threats such as jamming into cyber attacks and  signals intelligence (SIGINT) also is part of the overlapping effects of EW and cyber attacks, This is another factor changing Navy cyber operations,” said Vice Adm. Mike Gilday, USN, commander, U.S. Fleet Cyber Command/U.S. 10th Fleet. “In the future, we can’t just singularly think about how we’re going to fight in cyberspace or how we’re going to fight in the RF [radio frequency] spectrum or how we’re going to collect with SIGINT,” he warrants. “In the end, what we really need to do at both the tactical and operational level is to organize ourselves around these disciplines.”

He continues that the force still is organized in separate disciplines across the command structure. Instead, stovepipes must be broken down to create a cell comprising subject matter experts in communications, cyber, EW and intelligence. This cell would operate across the planning horizon spectrum, he states.

The Cyber and Electronic Warfare Division (CEWD) of DSTO brings together all four areas of cyber, EW, SIGINT and communications.

Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA’s) new Strategic Support Force (SSF) is a critical force for dominance in the space, cyber, and electromagnetic domains. In its design, the SSF is intended to be optimized for future warfare, in which the PLA anticipates such “strategic frontiers” as space, cyberspace, and the electromagnetic domain will be vital to victory, while unmanned, “intelligentized,” and stealthy weapons systems take on an increasingly prominent role. According to its commander, Gao Jin, the SSF will “protect the high frontiers and new frontiers of national security,” while seeking to “seize the strategic commanding heights of future military competition.” Through its integration of space, cyber, and electronic warfare capabilities, the SSF may be uniquely able to take advantage of cross-domain synergies resulting from the inherent interrelatedness and technological convergence of operations in these domains.

 China’s Strategic Support Force (SSF) PLA’s space, cyber, and electronic warfare capabilities

Chinese President Xi Jinping has tasked the new People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Strategic Support Force (SSF) with pursuing “leapfrog development” and advancing military innovation. The SSF, which has consolidated the PLA’s space, cyber, and electronic warfare capabilities, has consistently been characterized as a “growth point” for the construction of “new-type” forces, while also considered an important force in joint operations. The SSF not only possesses the capabilities to contest space and cyberspace, the “new commanding heights of strategic competition,” but also may take responsibility for the PLA’s initial experimentation with and eventual employment of a range of “new concept weapons.

Based on the available information, the SSF is composed of the Aerospace Systems Department, which has seemingly consolidated control over a critical mass of the PLA’s space-based C4ISR systems; and the Cyber (or Network) Systems Department, which appears to integrate the PLA’s information warfare capabilities, enabling the coordinated pursuit of electronic countermeasures, cyber attack and defense, and psychological warfare missions.

Beyond information warfare, the SSF has taken responsibility for strategic-level information support, through activities including intelligence and technical reconnaissance, to the rest of the PLA. While the integration of information warfare capabilities is consistent with trends in the PLA’s doctrinal writings, this integrated approach to information support across these domains reflects a more novel change that could enhance the PLA’s capability to actualize integrated joint operations.

Indeed, according to an authoritative text, Theater Command Joint Operations Command, the SSF is tasked to engage in intelligence and reconnaissance activities for the space, cyber, and electromagnetic battlefields, given its responsibility for operations in these domains, and also to provide operational support to each of the PLA’s five theater commands. In this regard, the SSF is designed to provide an “information umbrella” to the PLA as a whole.

In particular, according to influential military commentator Yin Zhuo, the SSF is intended to constitute the entirety of the “information chain” that is so integral to informatized warfare, ‘from the initial intelligence, reconnaissance, and early warning; then, information transmission, information processing, and information distribution; after the outbreak of hostilities, problems of guidance, judging the effect of strikes…and second strikes.’


DSTO’s Cyber-EW Continuum

DSTO cyber science and technology plan “Cyber 2020 Vision” says: “There is a growing relationship between cyber, electronic warfare, signals intelligence and communications. This is being driven by common technologies and challenges, but most importantly by the evolution of military capabilities to networked, distributed cyber-physical systems whose functionality and performance is defined in software rather than hardware. The challenges in protecting and countering these complex systems-of-systems require the development of new concepts that will leverage all four areas of cyber, EW, SIGINT and communications.”

The Cyber and Electronic Warfare Division (CEWD) of DSTO brings together all four areas of cyber, EW, SIGINT and communications. The Division will align its S&T program with the concept of the Cyber-EW Continuum and will include analysis and development of concepts and techniques that cannot clearly be defined as falling into any single area (i.e. cyber, EW, SIGINT or communications); combined techniques from two or more of the areas to create an overall countermeasure effect; and the use of one capability (e.g. communications) to support the implementation of a technique from another area (e.g. EW).

“Cyber and Electronic Warfare Division was formed as a result of the recognition that cyber and EW domains share a number of characteristics; both develop situational awareness to gain warning of threats and to characterise the signatures of existing known threats in order to enable rapid identification, both develop defensive techniques to neutralize the effect of threats when they are encountered, and both develop effectors intended to shape the battlespace and to impact on an adversary’s capability to operate in the cyber or EW domain,” says Dr Jackie Craig Chief, Cyber and Electronic Warfare Division.

Electronic Warfare and Cyber Warfare

Recently there has been move to integrate cyber warfare and traditional electronic warfare. Both Cyberspace and the Electronic Warfare are part of the information environment. Information warfare is “Actions taken to achieve information superiority by affecting adversary information, information-based processes, information systems, and computer based networks while defending one’s own information, information-based processes, information systems and computer-based network, as defined by CJCSI 3210.01 (1996).

Cyberspace is a global domain within the information environment consisting of the interdependent network of information technology infrastructures and resident data, including the Internet, telecommunications networks, computer systems, and embedded processors and controllers (JP 1-02). Cyberspace operations are the employment of cyberspace capabilities where the primary purpose is to achieve objectives in or through cyberspace. CO are categorized into three functions including offensive cyberspace operations (OCO), defensive cyberspace operations (DCO), and Department of Defense information network operations.

The military has already designated cyberspace as the fifth domain of war – along with the four physical domains of air, land, sea and space – and it’s mulling making the electromagnetic spectrum the sixth domain.

Joint doctrine (U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, 2007) provides further details on its make-up: “There is an electromagnetic spectrum portion of the information environment.”All modern forces depend on unimpeded access to, and use of, the electromagnetic spectrum in conducting military operations. Therefore, there is a requirement to gain and maintain an advantage in the electromagnetic spectrum by countering adversary’s systems and protecting one’s own systems. Joint Publication (JP 1-02) defined the electromagnetic spectrum as the “range of frequencies of electromagnetic radiation from zero to infinity” (U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, 2010b).

The three constituents of EW are referred as Electronic Attack (EA), Electronic Protection (EP) and Electronic Support (ES). EA is the electronic countermeasure which includes jamming and deception of enemy radars, electro optic and communication systems. It also includes use of anti-radiation missiles (ARM), electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and director energy weapons (DEW).

Electronic protection (EP) is the ECCM including such measures as emission control (EMCON), communication security (COMSEC) and electromagnetic hardening. Electronic support (ES) includes all actions taken for the purpose of real time threat reorganization in support of immediate decisions involving EA, EP, weapon avoidance, targeting or other tactical employment of forces e.g.  Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) and Communication Intelligence (COMINT).

Army’s Integrated Cyber and Electronic Warfare, or ICE, program

US Army has released document, titled FM 3-12 “Cyberspace and Electronic Warfare Operations,”  that “provides tactics and procedures for the coordination and integration of Army cyberspace and electronic warfare operations to support unified land operations and joint operations.”

The U.S. Army RDECOM CERDEC Integrated Cyber and Electronic Warfare, or ICE, program looks to leverage both cyber and Electronic Warfare capabilities as an integrated system to increase the commander’s situational awareness. CERDEC is focusing its science and technology efforts on researching solutions to address specific cyber and Electronic Warfare threats and developing the architecture onto which scientists and engineers can rapidly develop and integrate new more capable solutions.

“Currently, within cyber and EW disciplines there are different supporting force structures and users equipped with disparate tools, capabilities and frameworks,” said Paul Robb Jr., chief of CERDEC Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate’s Cyber Technology Branch.

“Under the ICE program, we look to define common data contexts and software control mechanisms to allow these existing frameworks to communicate in a manner that would support the concurrent leveraging of available tactical capabilities based on which asset on the battlefield provides the best projected military outcome at a particular point in time,” said Robb.

The boundaries between traditional cyber threats, such as someone hacking a laptop through the Internet, and traditional EW threats, such as radio-controlled improvised explosive devices that use the electromagnetic spectrum, have blurred, allowing EW systems to access the data stream to combat EW threats, according to Giorgio Bertoli, senior engineer of CERDEC I2WD’s Cyber/Offensive Operations Division.

The Army document “FM 3-38 Cyber Electromagnetic Activities”, provides doctrinal guidance and conducting cyber electromagnetic activities (CEMA) and the procedures and tactics for commanders and their staffs for planning, synchronizing and integrating CEMA.

US Army is also training in Cyber electromagnetic activities, Recently Personnel from the 25th Infantry Division and the 7th Signal Command Cyber Protection Brigade participated in a “Cyber Blitz” during the last two weeks of April at the Army Materiel Command’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, or CERDEC, focusing on testing new operations concepts in realistic training scenarios, the Army said in a release.

Unlike training scenarios Soldiers typically go through, Cyber Blitz forced them to account for cyber electromagnetic activities-related interactions in a tactical operations center, or TOC. Soldiers faced a variety of integrated threat vignettes to better develop their situational understanding of cyber and the electromagnetic spectrum: was there a cyber-attack, a hostile electromagnetic effect or did a fellow unit accidentally interfere with communications?

“Our problem was how to optimize our ability to integrate staff functions, support the commander in a very high-intensity fight, in a fight that includes a very contested cyber and electromagnetic component,” Fogarty said. “Two years ago as we started to look at how the world was changing and how the threat was evolving, what we recognized was regional peers and the near-peer threat had started to understand what our advantages were and started to develop capabilities to counter those advantages,” said Maj. Gen. Stephen Fogarty, U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence commanding general.

“We’ve been talking about cyber for what appears to be a long time, but it’s really been for a relatively short time, only 10 years,” said Henry Muller, CERDEC director, whose organization researches and develops systems and technologies for cyber and electromagnetic activities. “As technology evolves so rapidly and we continue to eat up and crowd the electromagnetic spectrum, to be able to operate in cyber is becoming more and more important to the Army.”


US Navy’s Integrated EM-Cyber environment

The U.S. Navy has embraced the electromagnetic (EM)-Cyber domain as a core warfighting domain, combining critical Navy communities in Information Warfare, Intelligence, Information Professional, Meteorology, Oceanography and Space Operations into an “Information Dominance” Corps.

Marine Corps leaders have “been writing doctrine, we’ve been looking at our [doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel and facilities], writing concepts for [Marine Air-Ground Task Force, or MAGTF] electronic warfare and for cyber-electronic warfare coordination cells” throughout virtually every level of the service, according to Col. Gregory Breazile, director of the Marine Corps’ C2/Cyber and Electronic Warfare Integration Division.

“All the MAGTFs now have cyber-electronic warfare coordination cells, and the service also is transitioning some military operational specialties to reflect EW and unmanned vehicle skillsets,” Breazile said.

“The EM-Cyber environment is now so fundamental to military operations and so critical to our national interests that we must start treating it as a warfighting domain on par with – or perhaps even more important than – land, sea, air, and space,” said Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations.

US Navy vision also says, “We will conduct operations in and through cyberspace, the electromagnetic spectrum, and space to ensure Navy and Joint freedom of action and decision superiority while denying the same to our adversaries.”

This is essential for addressing the critical challenges we face globally as a Navy, especially from state and non-state actors who can complicate the ability of naval forces to move into a theater (anti-access) and maneuver within the theater (area-denial).

US Airforce demonstrates integrated EW and Cyber Capabilities

The U.S. Air Force (USAF) is looking to expand its traditional electronic countermeasures capability to include the ability to carve into an enemy’s computer network from the air. USAF Maj. Gen. Burke Wilson, announced this new electronic weapon at a recent Air Force Association conference, according to Breaking Defense. In a series of experiments, the US Air Force has successfully modified its EC-130 Compass Call aircraft, built to jam enemy transmissions, to instead be able to access and enemy networks.

What’s more, Wilson told reporters at the Air Force Association conference here, this flying wireless attack can “touch a network that in most cases might be closed” to traditional means, that means like many military networks which are deliberately disconnected from the Internet (“air-gapped”) for better security.

“The focus over the last couple of years — [and] it’s really taken on a lot of momentum here over the last year — [is] integrating not just air capabilities, but air, space and cyberspace capabilities into the fight,” he said.


90th Information Operations Squadron demonstration

In 2014, the 90th Information Operations Squadron at JBSA-Lackland delivered effects from a cyberspace capability through an airborne platform.During the demonstration, cyberspace operators at JBSA-Lackland employed a cyber payload from their cyber platform through an airborne Compass Call flying from Davis-Monthan. Electronic warfare and cyberspace operators on the aircraft ensured that payload struck its target on the range in California.

“We are always looking to innovate and to find how we can better engage in future fights,” said Lt. Col. David Stone, 90th IOS commander. “Ultimately, it provides a chance to replace kinetic munitions with cyber payloads. We are finding ways that cyber capabilities can hit targets that are operationally relevant to combatant commanders.”

It was the first time that cyber operators openly practiced air-integrated cyber operations, according to Capt. Brian Belongia, cyber-attack flight commander in the 90th IOS. “We are using tools we already have to deliver packages in innovative ways,” said Belongia.

These effects from cyberspace operations can be applied across different platforms and different wavelengths to fill a variety of requirements, according to Belongia. “We can tailor the waveform to different missions. We are trying to stay as flexible and modular as possible.”



While the need for convergence of cyberspace operations and electronic warfare is recognized within the Department of Defense (DoD), differences between how these two capabilities are trained, resourced, organized and employed combined with the significant functional level differences between the two have hindered efforts to converge their capabilities.

“The biggest hindrance we have right now is not a technological one, it’s an operational and policy one,” said Bertoli. “The Army traditionally likes to build systems for a specific purpose – build a radio to be a radio, build an EW system to be an EW system, but these hardware systems today have significantly more inherent capabilities.”

“Tactical EW systems and sensors provide for significant points of presence on the battlefield, and can be used for cyber situational awareness and as delivery platforms for precision cyber effects to provide a means of Electronic Counter Measures and Electronic Counter-Counter Measures, for instance,” said Col. Joseph Dupont, program manager for EW under Program Executive Office Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors.

“There is no doubt in my mind that we must provide for a more integrated approach to cyber warfare, electronic warfare and electromagnetic operations to be successful in the future conduct of unified land operations,” said Dupont.

New chip helps communications and electronic warfare radio systems adapt in nanoseconds

“To address the need for radio systems that can adapt to changing environments on the fly and that can be easily reconfigured once they’re in the field, our engineers have developed the innovative MATRICs (Microwave Array Technology for Reconfigurable Integrated Circuits) chip,” says BAE systems. MATRICs helps address the future requirements of communications, electronic warfare, and signal intelligence systems. The new, general-purpose chip enables engineers to develop customized radio systems without the need for application-specific chips that are expensive and time consuming to develop.

“MATRICs is a radio frequency toolbox on a chip,” said Greg Flewelling, a senior principal engineer at BAE Systems. “It covers a broad range of radio waveforms so that many different types of systems can be designed around it, including ones that need wide spectrum awareness and adaptability to dynamic and challenging signal environments.”

Because MATRICs operates over a very wide spectrum of radio signals, systems based on this chip can benefit from reduced size, weight, and power (SWaP) without the long development cycles and expensive engineering costs typically associated with customized chips. The reduced SWaP of the MATRICs chip makes it ideal for critical applications including unmanned aerial platforms and man-portable radios, where light weight and low power are at a premium. The MATRICs chip also lets engineers create rapid prototypes and working systems that can be fielded faster and that can accelerate the speed of delivery for new technology.

MATRICs was developed and matured with funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), as part of its Adaptive RF Technology program. The ART program aims to advance the hardware used in radios that can reconfigure themselves under a range of environmental and operating conditions.

The speed of delivery from concept to the field is a critical component of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Third Offset Strategy, which has created a demand for agile systems that can efficiently address changing conditions in real-time as new advanced technologies emerge. The DoD strategy also focuses on the need for accelerated development and the rapid fielding of new technology by modifying existing systems, concepts that are at the core of MATRICs’ flexible design.


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