The Army's electronic warfare advocates must be crossing their fingers that bid protests won’t delay work under a software contract awarded to Sotera Defense Solutions of Herndon, Va., earlier this month. Two years from now, the new software, called the Electronic Warfare Planning and Management Tool, could completely change the way U.S. soldiers go about jamming enemy transmissions, including those that trigger some kinds of improvised bombs.
An Army electronic warfare officer. (Credit: U.S. Army)
Today, electronic warfare officers, or EWOs, must fly on board MC-12 turboprops to plan how to block emissions detected by signals intelligence collectors. With the new planning tool, they’ll be able to do that and 22 total functions from computers on the ground.
The Army wants the technology to be ready for testing by soldiers sometime between July and September 2015. On July 11, the Army announced that the planning tool is now in the engineering and manufacturing development phase.
The new tool is one piece of a broader modernization effort that's facing long budget odds. Another element is a proposed series of jammers called Multifunction Electronic Warfare systems or MFEWs. A backpack version would let foot soldiers knock out an adversary’s comms or jam a specific frequency, such as one used for triggering IEDs.
In a May interview, Col. Jim Ekvall explained how the two systems – the planning tool and MFEW - would work together:
Intelligence analysts “determine that a new frequency is being used to trigger IEDs. That info would be sent to the planning tool. The planning tool would inform the MFEWs elements, you need to attack this frequency.”
For Ekvall, getting modern equipment into the hands of EWOs would be the best way to convince commanders to make full use of their electronic warfare options.
“It’s a little bit hard to sell the importance of your craft, when you’re not able to do so on par with the field artillery guy that’s got a whole system that allows him to do this for the commander,” said Ekvall.
He knows because he's a former artillery man.