Colonel Laurie G. Moe Buckhout is Chief, Electronic Warfare Division, Army Operations, Readiness and Mobilization (HQDA G3/5/7), Washington, DC. In an interview today, she discussed her unit, its mission and the establishment of an Army MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) for electronic warfare.
In 2006, the Army recognized the importance of electronic warfare and created the Electronic Warfare Division. The driving force behind the establishment was the increased use of electronic devices as triggers for improvised explosive devices (IED’s) in Iraq and Afghanistan. There was also clear intelligence that the enemy forces in those countries were using cell phones and satellite phones for communication at the tactical level.
Col. Buckhout discussed the context for these new developments. The Air Force and Navy both have robust capabilities in EW. Their focus is on force protection, protecting aircraft and naval vessels. The EW solutions which they employ have a large footprint and affect hundreds of square miles.
Buckhout pointed out that such activities can often affect friendly forces in the area as well as those of the enemy. The Army is interested in similar capabilities but for use in a very limited area. Army EW is intended to be deployed as part of a brigade combat team (BCT), with employment affecting tens of square miles or less.
Electronic warfare, to date, has been a function of the Signal Corps. It is primarily an intelligence gathering task, signals interception, rather than having any offensive mission. The Electronic Warfare Division and the changes it is implementing will bring offense into play.
The Colonel envisions EW allowing a battalion commander to shut down cell phone service in an area where his unit is fighting, or to jam selected radio frequencies to herd the enemy to open frequencies which can be better monitored. She talked about small devices such as a grenade that can generate a localized EMP that would disable enemy electronics during an attack. There are microwave based weapons in development that would be used to disrupt crowds or to drive an entrenched enemy into the open.
As part of the growth of this concept within the Army, Col. Buckhout spoke about the creation of a new Army MOS, in the 29 series. The EW MOS is designed to provide a career path for enlisted men, warrant officers and officers, from E-5 to the rank of colonel.
The EW school is located at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. Several courses are being taught at the officer level. The pilot course for enlisted men will likely be in place by next year.
Buckhout states that the initial force will number 1,619, all ranks, and made up from the Regular Army, the Army Reserve and the Army National Guard. An EW cell will consist of an officer, a warrant officer and an enlisted soldier for deployment with a BCT. Additional EW personnel are anticipated being assigned at the division and at the corps levels as well. No enlisted have, as yet, been transferred to the new MOS pending final determination of training requirements and other internal needs of the service.
Col. Buckhout has received a lot of inquiries about transfer to the new MOS. The two major groups of soldiers expressing interest are coming from signals and from field artillery. Artillery expertise is valued for EW as targeting and timing will be a focus in EW as it is in the artillery.
The types of weapons available for Army EW is the subject of a study within the Pentagon, with interest having been expressed by the Navy, Air Force and Special Operations. The result will be a set of available technologies, and a set of desirable future technologies, from which EW weapons and support can be drawn.
Army EW is evolving from the anti-IED focus of its early years to a position where technology and well-trained specialist soldiers will add potent weapons to the Army’s ability to conduct asymmetrical warfare as well as to conduct traditional combat operations. Col. Buckhout is a knowledgeable and enthusiastic example of the new EW soldier.