Marine Corps Electronic Warfare--A Combat Power Multiplier
AUTHOR Major Stephen C. Robb, USMC
SUBJECT AREA C4
TITLE: MARINE CORPS ELECTRONIC WARFARE--A COMBAT POWER
THESIS: If the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Commander is
to gain control and manage the electromagnetic spectrum of the
future battlefield, he must understand and integrate Electronic
Warfare (EW) into his warfighting plans as a combat power
BACKGROUND: History holds many lessons concerning employment and
integration of electronic warfare. Our potential adversary--the
Soviet Union, has learned the lesson the hard way by the German
Invasion of 1941. Other countries such as Israel, and Great
Britain have learned through war experiences that electronic
warfare is a combat power multiplier.
Much has been written, but little is known about Electronic
Warfare. Within the Marine Corps, electronic warfare support is
a commodity that all want but really don't know what to do with
it when they receive it. Some commanders understand and integrate
electronic warfare into their scheme of maneuver, while others
think electronic warfare can provide a force field to protect
their communications and destroy the enemy's jammers.
The modern battlefield today overloads the electromagnetic
spectrum from command and control to modern weapon systems. It
will tax the MAGTF commander's ability to command. An old adage
states that without communications a commander commands nothing.
A commander must be able to control and use the electromagnetic
spectrum while possessing the ability to deny and exploit the
CONCLUSION: Electronic warfare provides the MAGTF commander with
a combat power multiplier and an ability to control and shape
future battlefields. The key to this multiplier is education and
integration into the overall scheme of maneuver. Don't just check
the block that Appendix 3 to Annex C is completed. Use it!
MARINE CORPS ELECTRONIC WARFARE-A COMBAT FORCE MULTIPLIER
Thesis: If the Marine Air-Ground Task Force commander is to gain
control and manage the electromagnetic spectrum of the future
battlefield, he must understand and integrate Electronic Warfare
(EW) into his warfighting plans as a combat power multiplier.
I. Historical Examples
a. Russo-Japanese War 1905
b. World War II
c. Arab-Israeli War 1973/1982
II. Terminology associated with Electronic Warfare
III. Comparision of Soviet Electronic Warfare
c. Concept of Operations
IV. Radio Battalion - Ground EW
c. Concept of Operations
V. VMAQ-2 Squadron
c. Concept of Operations
VI. Command & Control - Signals Intelligence/Electronic Warfare
Coordination Center (S/EWCC)
c. Responsibilities and membership
VII. Lessons Learned from Electronic Warfare
VII. Can a commander control and shape the future battlefield?
a. Modern battlefield can be managed and controlled
b. EW education and integration is the key.
MARINE CORPS ELECTRONIC WARFARE - A COMBAT POWER MULTIPLIER
"Whoever controls the electromagnetic spectrum on the
battlefield will win the next war."
Admiral Sergei Gorschkov
Former Commander-in-Chief Soviet Navy
"If there is a World War Three, the winner will be the side
that can best control and manage the electromagnetic
Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, USN
Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs
As America's Force-In-Readiness, the Marine Corps is ready
to deploy worldwide on a moment's notice to protect this nation's
vital interests. The likelihood of our involvement in a low-
intensity conflict is high. Furthermore, the likelihood that our
enemy will possess and employ sophisticated electronics is just
as high. The modern battlefield today overloads the electro-
magnetic spectrum from command and control to modern weapon
systems. A commander must be able to control and use the
electromagnetic spectrum while possessing the ability to deny and
exploit the enemy's use. If the Marine Air-Ground Task Force
(MAGTF) Commander is to gain control and manage the electro-
magnetic spectrum of the future battlefield, he must understand
and integrate Electronic Warfare (EW) into his warfighting plans
as a combat power multiplier.
Competition for control of the electromagnetic spectrum
began when Marconi made his third wireless and tried to
communicate on the same frequency, at the same time as the first
pair. The history of electronic warfare or at least the first
recorded intentional interference of military voice communi-
cations occurred in 1905 during the Russo-Japanese War. The
Shinano Maru had located the Russian fleet in the Tsushima
Strait, and was communicating its location to the Imperial
Japanese Fleet Headquarters at Mesampo Bay, Korea. The captain
of the Russian ship Ural requested permission to disrupt the
Japanese communication link by attempting transmit a stronger
signal over the Shinano Mura's signal hoping to distort the
Japanese's signal at the receiving end, Admiral Togo's Fleet
[Admiral] Rozhestvenshiy refused the (electronic
warfare) advise, which in those circumstances might
proved invaluable. . . . perhaps he wanted to prove to
the fleet his self-confidence in the face of the enemy
or perhaps he had failed to grasp the value of
electronic jamming as a means of preventing the enemy
from communicating. 2
During World War II, both the Allied and Axis Powers
extensively used electronic warfare, or what Winston Churchill
called the "Battle of the Beams." Initially, the focus of
effort for both sides was in defeating navigational radars used
to vector bombers to long range targets. Later, electronic
warfare helped in providing the battlefield commander with
vital tactical intelligence. The importance of electronic
warfare was particularly demonstrated at the battle of Gazala-Bir
Hacheim (Tobruk), June, 1942.
Rommel not only knew of British plans and of their
numerical superiority in a general way, he also knew -
thanks to his signal intelligence company
[Fernmelddeaufklarung] - exactly where the British
fighting units were deployed. British low-level
tactical communications, sent mostly in plaintext,
provided the location, strengths, deployment, and
readiness of their units . . . If Rommel had had the
capability to jam the British tactical communication
systems during that battle, the consequences could have
been expected to be even more terrible [for the
British] during the British withdrawal. 3
On the Eastern Front, initially the Germans were the masters
of not only air and ground warfare but also electronic warfare.
At Stalingrad, however, the Russian Army showed that it had
learned many lessons from the German use of electronic warfare.
The Russians, "claimed to have accomplished a historical first
integrated use of the three elements of German electronic
tactics; radio intelligence, radio disinformation, and a
combination of jamming and destroying enemy artillery and
aviation command posts and communications centers." 4
The Israelis have shown often that they can apply past
lessons of electronic warfare into coordinated and integrated
tactics for the modern day battlefield. For example, at the
beginning of the Six Day War, on 5 June, 1967, the Israelis
launched a pre-emptive strike against Egyptian air and air
defense targets by employing the following tactics:
the most far-off radars were attacked and put out of
action while those within range of Israeli electronic
equipment were subjected to jamming. Moreover, during
and after the initial attack, Israeli radio operators
who spoke fluent Egyptian Arabic transmitted into the
enemy air defense radio communications network, giving
false orders, canceling correct orders and generally
causing confusion and preventing Egyptian commands from
using the radio. . . . the Israelis managed to destroy
the whole Egyptian air force in the space of two
Before discussing electronic warfare further, a basic
foundation of terminology should be established. The following
electronic warfare associated definitions are DOD definitions as
defined in JCS Publication 1-02, Dictionary of Military and
a. Electronic Warfare (EW). Military action involving the
use of electromagnetic energy to determine, exploit, reduce, or
prevent hostile use of the electromagnetic spectrum. There are
three divisions within electronic warfare:
(1) Electronic Warfare Support Measures (ESM). That
division of electronic warfare involving actions
taken under the direct control of an operational
commander to search for, intercept, and identify/
locate sources of radiated electromagnetic energy
for the purpose of immediate threat recognition.
Thus, electronic warfare support measures provide
a source of information required for immediate
decisions involving electronic countermeasures,
electronic counter-countermeasures, avoidance,
targeting, and other tactical employment of
forces. ESM data used to produce signals
intelligence (SIGINT), both communications
intelligence (COMINT) and electronics intelligence
(2) Electronic Countermeasures (ECM). That division
of electronic warfare involving actions taken to
prevent or reduce an enemy's effective use of the
electromagnetic spectrum. Electronic
(a) Electronic Jamming. The deliberate radia-
tion, reradiation, or reflection of electro-
magnetic energy for the purpose of disrupting
enemy use of electronic devices, equipment or
(b) Electronic Deception. The deliberate radia-
tion, reradiation, alteration, absorption,
denial, enhancement, or reflection of
electromagnetic energy in a manner intended
to convey misleading information and to deny
valid information to an enemy or to enemy
electronic-dependent weapons. Among the types
of electronic deception are:
(1) Manipulative Electronic Deception (MED).
Actions to eliminate revealing, or
convey misleading, telltale indicators
that may be used by hostile forces.
(2) Simulative Electronic Deception (SED).
Actions to represent friendly notional
or actual capabilities to mislead
(3) Imitative Electronic Deception (ICD).
The introduction of electromagnetic
energy into enemy systems that imitates
(3) Electronic Counter-Countermeaaures (ECCM). That
division of electronic warfare involving actions
taken to ensure friendly effective use of the
electromagnetic spectrum despite the enemy's use
of electronic warfare.
b. Signala Intelligence (SIGINT). A category of intel-
ligence information comprising all communications intelligence,
electronics intelligence and telemetry intelligence.
(1) Communicationa Intelligence (COMINT). Technical
and intelligence information derived from foreign
communications by other than the intended
(2) Electronica Intelligence (ELINT). Technical and
intelligence information derived from foreign non-
communication electromagnetic radiations emanating
from other than nuclear detonations or radioactive
c. Communications Security Monitoring (COMSEC). The act of
listening to, copying, or recording transmissions of one's own
circuits (or when specifically agreed, e.g., in allied exercises
those of friendly forces), to provide material for communications
security analysis in order to determine the degree of security
being provided to those transmissions. In particular, the
purposes include providing a basis for advising commanders on the
security risks resulting from their transmissions, improving the
security of communications, and planning and conducting
manipulative communication deception operations.
Before we become educated on Marine Corps electronic warfare
doctrine, capabilities and assets, we should examine electronic
warfare from the viewpoint of our largest potential adversary --
the Soviet Union. Glasnost and Perestroika has changed many
Western political and military views toward believing the threat
of posed by the Soviet Union has dissolved with the cold war.
Soviet politics may change quickly but Soviet military doctrine
is slow to change especially if they surmise that the doctrine is
sound in theory and practice. We should remember that in future
conflicts, the enemy may employ Soviet-taught doctrine, tactics
as well as Soviet equipment against us. We should become
familiar with way the Soviet Union views and employs electronic
The Soviets subdivide electronic warfare or Radio-
electronic Combat (REC) [Radioelektronaya Bor'Ba] into four
areas; radio intelligence/intercept, radio countermeasures
(jamming), physical suppression/attack, and radio concealment and
Soviet REC units are assigned at both operational (front)
and tactical levels (division) depicted in figures 1-1 and 1-2.
Click here to view image
Soviet doctrine and concept of operations emphasize the
integration of REC units at the tactical level (Division). The
Radio/Radar Recon Co at the division level "doubles the jamming
capability of a Soviet front." 6
Additionally, the Soviets possess formidable air REC
assets; both helicopter (Hip H/J/K variants) and fixed wing (TU-
16 Badger/Blinder). The word "integration" signifies the
following three significant factors concerning how the Soviets
1. It means REC has been adopted for use by all the
services of the Soviet armed forces, subject to central
direction, probably by the General Staff.
2. It signifies that REC is an integral part of
overall Soviet military doctrine.
3. It means that REC integrates all methods of
manipulating radioelectronic emissions throughout the
electromagnetic spectrum--including electro-optical and
acoustic signals--into one inclusive system of military
A specific area which the Soviets have had little debate,
unlike in some Western circles, has been the differentiation
between ESM and SIGINT. ESM and SIGINT operations are synonymous
for the Soviets because both are functionally involved with
detecting, identifying and locating enemy emitters while
providing early warning to the supported commanders. "In fact,
in literally translated references to ESM, the Soviets explain it
away as another name radioelectronic intelligence (SIGINT) or as
a concept that comprises SIGINT." 8
The focus of effort for radioelectronic combat operations
would be targeted against enemy command and control communi-
cations, and weapon acquisition and fire control radars. Through
the REC unit's organization, mission and concept of operations,
Soviet commanders prove their willingness to utilize and
employ radioelectronic combat as a combat force multiplier.
There are two organizations that provide the combat force
multiplier for the MAGTF commander--the Radio Battalion (RadBn)
for ground electronic warfare and VMAQ-2 Squadron for airborne
The Radio Battalion is organized and equipped to conduct
tactical signals intelligence (SIGINT), ground electronic warfare
(EW), and communications security (COMSEC) monitoring/analysis in
direct support of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force. To
accomplish its mission, the Radio Battalion performs the
a. Provides and manages tasked organized units capable of
providing tactical SIGINT, EW support, and COMSEC
monitoring/ analysis to the MAGTF commander.
b. Conducts ECM operations against enemy communications.
c. Conducts COMSEC surveillance and surveys to determine
the success of the force COMSEC efforts.
d. Provides technical direction and guidance on SIGINT/EW
matters to the MAGTF.
e. Provides personnel and equipment to assist in the
establishment of the Signals Intelligence/Electronic
Warfare Coordination Center (S/EWCC) at the MAGTF
f. Provides special intelligence communications support for
the MAGTF command element. 9
There are two Radio Battalions within the Fleet Marine
Force. First Radio Battalion, FMFPAC, supports both I and III
MEF and is considered a Force asset--not resident in either the
1st or 3rd Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Intelligence Group
(SRI), and receives its tasking from the CG FMFPAC. Second Radio
Battalion, supports II MEF and is part of the 2nd SRI Group. It
receives its tasking from the MAGTF commander, through G-2
channels to the SRI Group commander.
The Radio Battalion, in garrison, is organized and equipped
along traditional table of organization/equipment structures,
e.g., three companies - Headquarters and Service (H&S) Company,
Company A and Company B. This allows maximum administrative
control of subordinate elements, facilitates training, and
permits rapid structuring and operational deployment of task-
The H&S company is organized and serves in the same capacity
as any other FMF H&S companies except for three additional platoons
- see figure 1-3. Company A maintains the battalion's direction
finding, electronic countermeasures, and communications security
monitoring assets. Company B provides the signals intelligence
collection assets for the battalion, see figure 1-4.
Click here to view image
The Battalion's warfighting structure is the task-organized
Direct Support Unit (DSU) that is organized into the seven basic
elements as depicted in figure 1-5. Depending upon the specific
mission tasking and operational requirements, a DSU may consist
of less than the seven elements but would have a minimum of four
elements - command, collection, operational and analysis, and
Click here to view image
As the Force-In-Readiness, the Marine Corps developed the
concept of special operations capable MAGTFs (SOC). The (SOC)
designation represented that a particular MAGTF possessed certain
unique and special skills required to accomplish a myriad of
missions. Consequently, special and unique electronic warfare
support measures for (SOC) units were also required to ensure
successful mission accomplishments.
The Commandant's implementation plan for special
operations capabilities . . . specifically identified
EW as a requisite special operations support
capability . . .Marine Corps Order 3501.8, with change
5, establishes the Marine Corps Combat Readiness
Evaluation System (MCCRES) for Marine air-ground task
forces (MAGTFs). EW performance standards are mandated
and defined in this order, establishing EW as a
necessary component of readiness. 10
The solution for Marine Corps electronic warfare was the creation
of a Radio Reconnaissance Platoon within each Radio Battalion.
The Radio Reconnaissance Platoon is organized in five-six
man teams (RRT) according to mission and target country language.
Marines assigned to RRTs are specially trained and employed to
conduct SIGINT/EW operations during advance force, pre-assault,
or special operations.
The RRT performs the following functions when employed; (1)
signal search and development operations; (2) limited reporting
to satisfy EEI/OIRs tasked to the DSU; (3) lines of bearing
(direction finding); and (4) immediate threat warning to alert
advance forces or special operations force elements of enemy
intentions/detection. The RRT is usually employed with other
reconnaissance assets/forces and as part of a larger Radio
The organization that conducts airborne electronic warfare
in support of Fleet Marine Force operations is VMAQ-2 Squadron.
VMAQ-2 is an organic unit of 2nd Marine Air Wing (MAW), but can
provide detachments in support of any MAW. VMAQ-2's primary, and
only, platform for conducting airborne EW is the EA-6B, Prowler.
The squadron currently possesses 18 EA-6Bs and deploys in
three detachments of 6 planes. While in garrison, however, VMAQ-
2 is organized along functional lines to ease administrative and
In the accomplishment its mission, VMAQ-2 performs the
a. Conducts ECM operations and electronic support
b. Conducts ECM operations for ECCM training of FMF
c. Process and provide mission data from tape
recordings obtained on EW missions for updating
and maintaining an electronic order of battle.
d. Maintain the capability of operating from aircraft
carriers, advanced bases, and forward bases. 11
In accounts written concerning responsibility for electronic
warfare, the authors laid the responsibility at the feet of the
commander. Commanders' control and management of the electro-
magnetic spectrum require control and management of the
electronic warfare assets. The primary management tool that
permits coordination of EW assets is the Signals Intelligence-
Electronic Warfare Coordination Center (S/EWCC).
As a staff agency, the S/EWCC coordinates the signals
intelligence, electronic warfare and COMSEC activities of the
MAGTF to identify and resolve potential conflicts. Even with the
history and exercise lessons learned, there are still some who
believe EW is something right out of Star Trek or Star Wars. A
flip of the switch and presto--an electronic force field that
allows friendly communications while jamming enemy's radio and
radar systems. Unfortunately, the modern battlefield is not that
modern. When radiating, friendly jammers can disrupt friendly
communications if there was not prior coordination and planning.
The S/EWCC is the focal point for coordination between the G-2/S-
2, G-3/S-3, and the Communications-Electronics Officer (CEO) and
requests for EW support from MAGTF units.
The MAGTF G-2 establishes and is responsible for the manning
and operations of the S/EWCC. He ensures that the following
representatives, at the minimum are present; (1) G-2; (2) G-3;
(3) CEO; (4) Special Intelligence Officer (SIO); (5) Electronic
Warfare Officer (EWO); (6) Radio Battalion liaison officer; and
(7) VMAQ-2 liaison officer.
Other countries have learned lessons from history concerning
using electronic warfare as a combat power multiplier. Some of
the lessons the Marine Corps has learned are:
(1) ESM and SIGINT are not mutually exclusive, but
complimentary and interdependent on each other to ensure
successful EW operations. The degree or emphasis placed on
techniques and also the use of the information derived separate
one from another.
(2) Rear security area operations can be enhanced by
early warning information of a potential threat or attack from
Radio Battalion via a dedicated Indications and Warning (I&W)
(3) The speed and size of future battlefields may
result in establishment of a S/EWCC (forward) that can
communicate and coordinate with the forward-deployed EW units.
(4) Radio Battalion can enhance its EW capability via
airborne ESM and ECM missions by employing RadBn unique equipment
mounted in UH-1N helicopters.
(5) The best approach for educating commanders and
their staffs on the unique capabilities of Radio Battalion is by
integrating the battalion's assets into the commander's scheme of
An old adage states that without communications a commander
commands nothing. The modern battlefield will tax the MAGTF
commander's ability to command. He must ensure he can communi-
cate freely while denying or exploiting his adversary's command
and control assets. Electronic warfare provides the MAGTF
commander with a combat power multiplier and an ability to
control and shape future battlefields.
1 Mario de Arcangelis, Electronic Warfare: From the Battle of
Tsushima to the Falklands and Lebanon Conflicts, Blandford
Press, Dorset, United Kingdom, 1985, p. 9.
2 Ibid, p. 11.
3 Don E. Gordon, Electronic Warfare: Element of Strategy and
Mulitplier of Combat Power, Pergamon Press, New York, 1981,
4 David G. Chizum, Soviet Radioelectronic Combat, Westview Press
Inc., Boulder, Colorado, 1985, p. 3.
5 Arcangelis, p. 178.
6 Department of Defense, Soviet Military Power: Prospects for
Change - 1989, Washington D. C., 1989, p. 81.
7 Chizum, p. 4.
8 Ibid, p. 32.
9 U. S. Marine Corps, Fleet Marine Force Organization-1990,
FMFMRP 1-11, Quantico, Virginia, 1989, p. 7-3.
10 Captain Patrick C. Heggy, "MEU(SOC) Electronic Warfare,"
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