Real Iraq Surge: Electronic Attack?

“Any U.S. military surge in Iraq will be far more than a troop increase,” Aviation Week says, in a fascinating new article. “A key element in the deployment will be an accelerated effort to bring more and newer technologies to bear on the foe, in part by targeting insurgent commanders, often through their communication networks.”
compass_call_night2.jpgA third squadron of Prowler electronic attack planes is being equipped with a new, Northrop system “designed to identify and locate enemy emitters and jam signals that can be used to remotely detonate explosive devices. The U.S. Air Force’s EC-130 Compass Call electronic attack aircraft are [also] being used in Iraq to detonate explosive devices along convoy routes.”
But perhaps the most intriguing family of systems being “readied for operations” is BAE Systems’ Suter network exploitation programs, designed to “break into enemy networks to hear communications, see what enemy sensors are seeing and, in some circumstances, become the systems manager with the ability to manipulate enemy sensors.”
“Suter finds the doors that have to be opened,” an Air Force official tells Aviation Week.
L-3 Communications’ Network-Centric Collaborative Targeting tool is considered Suter’s “eyes and ears.” With the system, three planes can pick up, within seconds, “the location (within a few hundred feet) and identity of enemy emitters — radios, low-power cell phones and satellite phones, as well as other devices used for command and control and detonation of explosives… Plans are to have UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] or manned aircraft nearby that can deliver weapons or guide ground teams to the emitter’s location within minutes.”

A series of Suter programs explored the ability to pipe data streams — embedded with specialized algorithms — into enemy communications networks without being detected. The portals into the network are found by precisely locating antennas (as aiming points for the data streams) whether they are part of an air defense system or a hand-held communications device linked to others in an ad hoc tactical network for a small insurgent team.
However, there’s the possibility that [the new gear] could interfere with [existing] U.S. [military] technology. Baghdad, where the force buildup is expected, is electronically polluted. For example, one smart system that jammed improvised explosive devices locked onto another smart system because of a lack of coordination between electronic warfare systems operated by different services and agencies. Jammers also can conflict with surveillance and communication systems… The problem is so pervasive that antennas have been put on 110-ft.-high poles to get them out of the worst interference.

  • R Meyer

    THATS FIZNUCKIN COOL!!! But how can they discriminate between the enemy’s cell phone signals and civilian signals? A

  • pedestrian

    Electromagnetic traffic… It has already been a problem years ago in Iraq. IED jammer, GPS, communication devices, sensors, RPV/UAV all spitting electromagnetic waves, and the air space will sure be jammed.

  • Robot.Economist

    I am with R. Meyer on this one. Sure, it can track and jam electromagnetic signals, but the article doesn’t exactly instill confidence in the gear’s ability to pick out the bad guys from friendly systems, let alone civilian networks.
    This idea smacks of BG Wald’s old assessment of Operation Deliberate Force. ISR and information dominance give the U.S. military a decisive edge - provided we can readily distinguish targets from non-targets.

  • Wembley

    So how long does it take to figure out how to get the US to bomb the wrong people?
    Just keep calling them up from different phones and saying “The attack on the infidels was successful, O Commander”…
    You really need human intelligence alongside these things.

  • pleuris

    I think it’s all about data gathering. Before you can attack (electronicly or with hard-kill devices) you have to have the right signal intell. Let’s say that some group use a type of sattlite or cell phone You will get somekind of trend. This will be picked up by the sigint systems and processed. With that data you can do some datamining or do some humint to get the real targets: the commanders.
    the downside,: you are always reacting, and the best tactic is still: Punch first!

  • Persephone

    What would possess anyone to announce our strategy to the world even before we employ it? Nothin’ like having the wrong side know when we’re comin’ and what we’re bringin’ with us. This smacks of treachery, my boys.

  • B Ayers

    “Again, Conventional thinking in an unconventional war.” I would rather read about this “cool and amazing tech ” and how well it worked after we had successfully wiped out the insurgency and instilled a strong democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan. It would make a kick a#@ discover show. Let’s stop helping the enemy by telling him our high and low tech methods of seeking him out. Yeah, I know he would eventually figure it out but let him at least work at it rather then just clicking open a web browser.

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