When one writes futuristic science fiction–or any other science-related genre–one has to rely on modern scientific fact to support future fiction. Most science fiction story telling relies on conflict. Think Star Wars, the Star Trek syndicates, Battlestar Galactica, Superman, Batman, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Armageddon, Stargate series, Twilight Zone, and many more.
So today’s lesson for fiction writers covers the current military electronic warfare environment for the U. S. military. All information comes from DefenseNewsTv.com’s “Electronic Warfare Roundtable.” Panel members are from different branches of the armed services.
Today’s military operates in a global environment with a need for 24/7 communication and control capacities. Electronic warfare, the primary tool of modern military action, is based on a cyberspace platform. Thus, the armed services recognize how intertwined the cyber community is with electronic warfare.
The various branches of service identify the following threats from enemy command and control operations:
Soldiers encounter field environments that differ from the norm to which they are accustomed. For example, the military is used to operating with nearly unlimited bandwidth. What happens to soldiers where bandwidth is denied or limited? The Navy panelist admits that, as a service branch, the Navy has let skills atrophy in the modern electronic surveillance and communication environment. The Navy plans to re-learn traditional skills to manage signatures in a non-electronic circumstance. It has to live up to its credo to “operate forward and be ready.”
The Army says it is responsible for enemy command and control, such as disabling enemy communications, sensors or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). The Army panelist says he is most concerned by an enemy who is able to maneuver inside the electronic warfare spectrum and go undetected. A dangerous enemy can synthesize an existing system, then change software code and modify the Army’s systems remotely.
The Marines are proud of existing radio battalion systems on the ground. To improve the systems, the Marines want to marry their operations with resident capacities in the air. However, they face an enemy that adapts quickly. The Department of Defense is scrambling to stay ahead of enemy capabilities.
The Air Force fears an enemy that uses the electromagnetic spectrum to destroy weapons systems.
The Air Force panelist says, “What keeps me up at night is the imagination and innovation of the adversary.”
Today there is a danger of turning commercial products into weapons. Cell phones operate on former military signals. A smart enemy leverages the commercially available technology to defeat or confound secret military technology.
So where is military strategy going? Thus far, the focus has been to give technology to the brigade commander for operations. In the future, overarching architecture will aid higher command authorities, too. Tactical assets and systems will be integrated across service branches. Finally, there will be a greater emphasis on speed–of adaption, of control, of meeting capacity.
Cooperation and synergy, through joint exercises and co-development of tools and technologies, is mandatory in the current fiscally austere environment.
Electronic warfare and cyberspace management is as much art as science. Listening becomes critical. Electronic surveillance will have to increase, as will service branches working together for better upfront planning.