Sunday, March 08, 2009

Army Becomes Brainy

Since it seems a given fact that change in the military does not happen fast or come easy, it is quite a revolution to hear that the U.S. Army is finally developing its own teams for electronic warfare. In recent years, the Army has primarily been developing the muscle component of operations, while the brains have been neglected.  Tasks involving highly technological capabilities in Iraq and Afghanistan have primarily been delegated to the U.S. Navy and Air Force.

But, as the Army slowly adapted its strategy of warfighting to the terrain and enemy through the consolidated approach in the Counterinsurgency Manual FM 3-24, it is finally expanding and adapting its technological capabilities to the circumstances in combat zones. Primarily U.S. Army soldiers and marines are in harms way on the battlegrounds in Iraq and Afghanistan and thus it seems way past due that the Army is training its own electronic warfare specialists and developing its own response teams. Especially Improvised Explosive Devices detonated by cell phone or other electronic gadgets have caused many casualties and tracking devices and drone activities require a fair amount of technological expertise from the everyday soldiers and marines on the ground.

The plan is to begin the training of 1,600 soldiers (officers and enlisted) and more in later years to operate the high-tech equipment that has been shipped to the war zones and is increasingly being developed to counter new technological threats there.  In the past, this equipment was primarily operated by Air Force and Navy personnel specifically dispatched to the areas. A new electronic warfare doctrine called "FM 3-36 Electronic Warfare in Operations" has been developed, which according to the New York Times teaches "commanders how to integrate electronic warfare into all tasks, from planning to carrying out military operations" and includes directions for a training program and equipment requirements.

The doctrine is a response to the difficulty that soldiers and marines often encounter when faced with a large amount of conflicting signals traffic in a combat zone from other allied units.  Insurgents are hard at work at using jammers to disturb signals traffic and at developing new technologies of their own to intercept and attack electronic frequencies.  The military largely relies on signals traffic to communicate, coordinate troop movements and utilize satellite fed navigation systems.

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