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Military

Electronic Warfare

by CPT Harry Wilkow, Grizzly 09
Limitations placed on the use of SINCGARS radios proved
that the old policies of net discipline and OPSEC still apply.

Background. The Status Of Forces Agreement precludes the use of frequency hopping between aircraft and ground units. A BLUFOR unit at the Hohenfels training area assumed it could use frequency hopping. The number of helicopters in the unit forced them to use single-channel communications to maintain C2.

OPFOR task organization included two base electronic systems: one in the electronic support (ES) role, TRQ-32 with a PRD-12 (backup), and one for electronic attack (EA) OPFOR - TLQ-17. Normally, the TLQ-17 is used for ES to aid the collection effort until the commander deems it necessary to interrupt the enemy communications. EA (jamming) is planned for during wargaming as one of the battlefield operating systems.

In total, OPFOR had three collection systems, two mounted on vehicles and one manpack portable. Only the TRQ-32 and the PRD-12 were capable of line of bearing (OB) diagnosis to the transmitter. Only the TLQ-17 was capable of jamming.

Discussion. BLUFOR conducted all communications on secure single-channel frequencies. There was a prevailing sense of security throughout the BLUFOR unit that the air waves were theirs. No one else could interfere with their equipment - a notion that was quickly shattered.

Beginning with the second battle, BLUFOR communications were interrupted by beeps, whistles, static, and even a false radio broadcast. Despite the subtle hints that something was amiss, BLUFOR continued to do several things that they were trained not to do in the past:

a. Changing frequencies at 0200 every morning.

* This allows four to five hours of chat before the main attack.

* Plenty of time for OPFOR to find the frequencies.

b. Long transmissions - sometimes as long as 30 seconds.

* Excellent opportunity for OPFOR to lock onto a frequency and obtain LOBs.

* Provides a relative fix on the transmitter.

c. Radio nets crowded with use. OPFOR commented on finding one net busy for 15 minutes without a break (it happened to be the battalion operations/intelligence net).

ANALYSIS

1. Because the BLUFOR communications were secure, OPFOR only heard static. The entire OPFOR ES effort was directed toward:

  • Finding BLUFOR frequencies.
  • Identifying those frequencies based on the volume of traffic.
  • Determining the times in which they were used.
  • Locating communications nodes so that they could better position their TLQ-17 directional antenna.

2. Prior to each battle, BLUFOR talked frequently on all their nets. Battalion O/I and command nets were particularly busy. BLUFOR had no period of radio silence. OPFOR located these nets hours before the battles began.

3. BLUFOR had four pre-programmed frequencies for each of the battalion's nets. At least one of the alternate frequencies was only megahertz away from the primary frequency. Bleed-over from jamming on the primary frequency shut this frequency down as well.

4. As OPFOR began EA, BLUFOR changed frequencies quickly and very efficiently through the first two alternate frequencies. OPFOR needed an average of 4 minutes to locate the next "jump" frequency, obtain EA approval, and begin jamming it. Beyond the second alternate frequency, BLUFOR experienced problems maintaining all required stations on the net. Several stations appeared to be lost. Although the commander, S-3, and tactical operations center always found each other on the alternate frequencies, many sub-elements of the unit, such as helicopter scouts, were not able to report for several minutes.

Lesson Learned. BLUFOR units, whether at CMTC or as part of a multi-national force, may not be able to use the frequency-hopping characteristics of the SINCGARS radios. Mitigate electronic disruption. by guarding your frequencies as in the past:

  • Limit transmission time,
  • Randomly practice radio silence to deceive the enemy, and
  • Plan for the eventual electronic attack.


Parallel Planning at the Battalion Level
Dismounted Mechanized Infantry in the Deliberate Attack



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