Army Boosts Electronic Warfare Numbers, Training, Role
The Army is giving its electronic warfare force more troops, more training, and a more prominent role in combat headquarters, senior officers said here Thursday, pushing back on criticisms that the service neglects EW even as Russia and China pull ahead.
- The number of EW troops has increased from 813 (both officers and enlisted) in 2015 to 940 today and it’s growing. While just a fraction of the formidable Russian EW force, that’s still a 15 percent increase in three years, remarkable at a time when the Army as a whole shrunk by 4 percent. What’s more, it reverses a stark decline in previous years when the Army decided to get rid of EW specialists because it no longer needed to jam radio-controlled roadside bombs in Iraq.
- EW training is being expanded. All new Army electronic warfare officers (EWO) will start with the same 14-month course as cyber operations officers, but the EWOs will then get an additional three months of training specifically in electronic warfare. Enlisted EW specialist training will probably quadruple in length from nine weeks to 36, equal in length to the new enlisted cyber operator course.
- EW officers will lead new combined cyber/EW cells on Army headquarters staffs at every echelon from brigade to division, corps, and regional Army Service Component Command. Many units had some form of Cyber/Electromagnetic Activity staff before, but these CEMA cells are now being enlarged, standardized, and put without exception under leaders drawn from the EW force.
Now, even when complete, these reforms won’t fix all the Army’s problems, much of which comes down to hardware. The service is racing to field the kind of robust communications network that can get orders and intelligence through in the face of high-end jamming. It’s still years away from fielding the kind of high-powered, long-range offensive radio jammers that the Russians put to lethal effect in Ukraine, although it has been testing shorter-ranged systems in Europe. And there’s no clear timeline to develop a drone-mounted offensive jammer that would free the Army from its current reliance on a small number of manned aircraft from other services, particularly Navy EA-18G Growlers and Air Force EC-130H Compass Calls.