Last Updated: 08/14/2013*

Why Do They Call Themselves Old Crows?

According to the Association of Old Crows, allied electronic countermeasure officers were given the code name of “Raven” during World War II. After the war, a group of Raven operators was asked to establish a countermeasures course at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey. Those present at the time say the students changed the nickname to “Crows,” and those engaged in the profession became known as “Old Crows.”

Hundreds of crows are descending on Phoenix this month. But these aren’t the raucous black birds that have been immortalized in scary films and branded as tricksters by countless cultures.

These “old crows,” members of the Association of Old Crows, are charged with an important mission: to keep troops safe through electronic warfare technology. They’re holding their annual conference in Arizona’s capital.

Amanda 'Chester' Kammier climbs into an EA-6B Prowler jet during her former career as a Navy electronic countermeasures officer, or “old crow.” Kammier now works for Raytheon.
Amanda "Chester" Kammier climbs into an EA-6B Prowler jet during her former career as a Navy electronic countermeasures officer, or “old crow.” Kammier now works for Raytheon.

Electronic warfighters – and their feathered nickname – got their start in World War II, when the mysterious warriors were codenamed “Raven” on the radio. Today crows use radio signals and other kinds of energy to jam enemy radar, lure away missiles, scramble the enemy’s communications or mimic aircraft and ships.

“We throw mud in the enemy’s eyes,” said Amanda "Chester" Kammier, a former Navy electronic countermeasures officer.

Like Kammier, many crows have come to roost at Raytheon, a leader in electronic warfare. Some, like 44-year employee Kenneth Pierskalla, have been pushing radar and jammer technology forward for decades.

“During my lifetime, we started with analog radars back in the seventies,” said Pierskalla, an engineer. “Then we went to what are called hybrids. Today, all the radars are digital.”

Raytheon employees, many of them “old crows,” or electronic warfare experts, attend the rollout ceremony of the MALD-J, a tiny, flying jammer.
Raytheon employees, many of them “old crows,” or electronic warfare experts, attend the rollout ceremony of the MALD-J, a tiny, flying jammer.

 

In recent years electronic warfare has taken a major leap forward. Flat panels known as active electronic scanned arrays can steer radar signals electronically, replacing moving parts. Gallium nitride components emit five times more energy than older transmitters. And cyber technology is giving electronic warfighters broad new powers.

“The electronic warfare of the future is going to be crazy … a little more deceptive, more creative,” Kammier said.

Raytheon’s incorporating those advances into new products like its Next Generation Jammer, its RACR radar for combat jets and the MALD-J, a tiny, jet-powered jammer than can fly 500 miles by itself.

“We are in EW, we are in radar and we are in weapons. It’s the total solution,” Roy Azevedo, vice president for advanced concepts technology at Raytheon’s Space and Airborne Systems. “And, being able to take advantage of all those skill sets, to be able to come up with good solutions….I think Raytheon, no kidding, has an advantage.”

Raytheon uses this highly modified Learjet to train electronic warfare officers for the Australian military, fostering the next generation of “old crows.”
Raytheon uses this highly modified Learjet to train electronic warfare officers for the Australian military, fostering the next generation of “old crows.”

As technology changes, the Association of Old Crows has focused on fostering a community of specialists in the field. The group has 13,500 members and is looking for more.

“We very much want younger members so the AOC can keep current on new technologies and because, frankly, our warfighters are young,” said Laurie Moe Buckhout, the group’s president. “Our best and brightest are in the services.”

Learn more about Raytheon's electronic warfare offerings.

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