Clarity in combat
With this electronic warfare tech, soldiers have better intel
On a September evening at Fort Dix, New Jersey, dozens of U.S. Army electronic warfare specialists tapped on tablets and huddled over laptops as part of the yearly Cyber Blitz training exercise.
Thousands of miles away, in Japan, their fellow soldiers joined the Japan Self-Defense Force during a live-fire exercise, a training event where military personnel tested surface-to-air missiles, artillery, rocket launchers and UH-60 helicopters.
The forces were on opposite sides of the world, but they may as well have been right next to each other. Connecting all the action was the Army’s Electronic Warfare Planning and Management Tool – a first-of-its-kind technology that plans, manages and controls sensors and systems in the electromagnetic spectrum. During Cyber Blitz, it showed the simulated locations of friendly and enemy forces – intel that helped commanders make informed decisions.
“It’s like one of those computer strategy games where you get a top-level view to manage all the moving pieces in a battlefield,” said Niraj Srivastava, senior manager at Raytheon Electronic Warfare Systems. “The cool thing about EWPMT is that it takes that concept and brings it to real operations for electronic warfare officers and commanders. Now they have a virtual map to plan and execute maneuvers.”
In both locations, the Army mounted sensors on vehicles, on soldiers' backpacks, on drones and even on tethered balloons, to emit radio signals. Those signals were sent to a map on a big screen inside a tactical operation center at Fort Dix, giving commanders a detailed and real-time view of the mock battlefields.
The system has been an Army program of record since 2014. Raytheon has been improving the system regularly through updates known as "capability drops," and it has also created a mobile version called Raven Claw, which runs on a ruggedized laptop and is in use in Europe. That system helps operators control signals in the field, even without a reliable connection or a host server.
“This isn’t theoretical stuff. EWPMT has already been proven to work with on the field and to integrate with sensors from different makers very quickly,” Srivastava added.
An update called Capability Drop 3 updated the tool's look and feel to reflect user feedback from the Army. The newest version also includes all the features of Raven Claw, meaning officers in the field can now use laptops from their vehicles to collect sensor data and send it to the tactical operation center.
“We work with the people who fight these battles every day to get their input,” said Jeff Polhamus, program manager at Raytheon Electronic Warfare Systems. “They know what they need best.”
The system is also adaptable; Cyber Blitz, for example, used eight types of sensors. All were integrated into EWPMT in less than two weeks.
“Electronic warfare is evolving fast and becoming more of a concern, so we need better and more sophisticated tools in our toolbox,” said Polhamus. “It’s not a game.”