The Big Divide: Why the U.S. Army is Breaking Up its Highly Classified Radio Intelligence and EW Platform

U.S. Army decided to split its integrated radio intelligence and electronic warfare platform into two separate variants after years of development, as part of its process to revitalize its electronic warfare capabilities.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

The U.S. Army intends to split its integrated radio intelligence and electronic warfare platform into two separate variants after years of development.

The brigade combat team ground-level system was developed six years ago as the first integrated platform for electronic warfare, cybersecurity, and radio intelligence. Given that the service had been without software-based jammers for decades, it is characterized as a critical instrument for implementing the Army’s priorities and supporting multi-domain operations. Initially, it was intended to be installed on Strykers and subsequently on prototypes of the Army’s Multi-Purpose Vehicle variant.

The highly classified nature and authorities associated with radio intelligence and the issues related to deploying it on a single platform with electronic warfare tools have always been the subject of concern among experts.

Five years ago, the U.S. Army contracted with Lockheed Martin to acquire a mid-level platform. According to officials, the dissolution of the TLS-BCT is a testament to the benefits of this Middle Tier of Acquisition (MTA) approach. This approach can result in rapid deployment, a transition to the acquisition of core capabilities, continued prototyping in alternative methods, or termination, in addition to the authorities granted to the Army by the U.S. Congress.

“It’s is the beauty of the MTA process,” stated Brigadier General Wayne “Ed” Barker, program executive officer for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare, and Sensors, in an interview at an Army technical exchange meeting in Philadelphia at the end of May 2024.

According to General Wayne, it enables identifying what will not be effective or successful in combat. The physical integration of electronic warfare and electronic warfare instruments presented a multitude of challenges. The truth was that the most effective course of action was to separate them rather than establish a singular platform.

The current MTA will conclude in 2025, meaning there won’t be an immediate decision on implementing TLS at that time. The Army will continue to prototype electronic warfare and radio intelligence variants for a year to a year and a half after the MTA period to refine these capabilities.

A decision will be made at the end of this period to ascertain whether one or both of these platforms are prepared to transition to a major variant or proceed to rapid deployment, contingent upon the Army’s progress in prototyping each variant.

The radio intelligence system is currently the more stable of the two systems in terms of platform requirements. It will only need to remove the electronic warfare payload.

The Army has been revitalizing its electronic warfare (EW) capabilities for several years, a process prompted by the events in Ukraine since 2014.

For decades, the Army has had several platform systems for signals intelligence (SIGINT), such as Prophet, a ground tactical SIGINT system.

While the European theater of operations has long been a priority, the Army is now beginning to shift its focus to the Pacific, where the U.S. Department of Defense identifies China as the primary threat.

According to officials, given that the threat landscape in Europe and the Pacific is changing in conjunction with the terrain in each theater, a reassessment of capabilities is necessary.

Furthermore, heavier vehicles like Strykers and Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV) are difficult to drive across the Pacific’s islands, which span thousands of miles in maritime settings and rainforests.

This is one area where the technology simply doesn’t exist. Prototyping actually creates feedback for the industry, according to Alex Miller, chief technology officer of the chief of staff’s office. He made these comments during an interview at a technical exchange meeting.

According to Miller, they faced several challenges. They had some old equipment with proprietary interfaces and control mechanisms, which they did not want. Instead, they desired something more open.

Miller went on to explain that personnel in a vehicle have access to much more power. The goal was to enable them to utilize that power to create either a protective or an offensive effect.

He noted that the Army has seen many promising new capabilities in experiments like Project Convergence, such as electronic warfare tools mounted on robots or small drones.

Miller stated that they required assistance developing technology for a mounted, powerful, mobile electronic warfare (EW) kit instead of a portable backpack with somewhat lower power capabilities. He added that they could deploy such an EW kit on a pickup truck or infantry vehicle, making it more mobile and transportable via C-130 or C-17 aircraft.

The portable backpack version mentioned was conceived as a complement to the TLS-BCT system, encompassing a series of two systems that dismounted soldiers can use for jamming, signal direction finding, and signal intelligence. In 2023, the Army awarded a $1.5 million contract to Mastodon Design, a subsidiary of CACI.

Miller added that when considering this technology’s transformational impact upon contact with adversaries, this mounted and powerful mobile electronic warfare kit represented the first real equipment being provided to personnel.

The armed forces structure transformation plan, published in February, also introduced changes to the electronic warfare forces concerning the placement of EW companies and platoons at certain echelons, which will entail changes in the platform.


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