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OPFOR Electronic Warfare: More Than Just Jamming

by MAJ Scott Farquhar
The following article is a synopsis of an interview with CPT Bruce Perry, Commander of the 511th Military Intelligence Company, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, who also serves as the Deputy Chief of Reconnaissance, 60th Guards Motorized Rifle Division.

The Krasnovian's (NTC OPFOR) use of Radio Electronic Combat (REC) is clearly delineated in TRADOC Pamphlet 350-16, but few of our soldiers are knowledgeable of the inner workings of a Krasnovian tactical unit. This article will shed some light on the electronic warfare tactics, techniques and procedures of the OPFOR's 60th GMRD.

The OPFOR applies the effects of REC for each action they take and for the actions they anticipate the BLUFOR to take. Conversely, due to the decentralized nature of its operations, all subordinate elements of the EW Company must be thoroughly familiar with the Regiment's plan for them to support it. The EW Company is dispersed in their positions across the breadth of the Regiment's sector and they affect every combat multiplier.

ORGANIZATION

The 511th MI Company is equipped with the U.S.-made TRQ-32A (V) 2 for collection and jamming. Their organization for combat reflects the nature of the OPFOR's integration of REC into their application of combined arms. The MI Company Commander is totally involved with the Regiment's mission planning, and is an integral part of all wargaming and rehearsals for the Regiment. He is located in the Jump TOC, along with the Regimental Chief of Staff and other members of the battle staff (Chiefs of Reconnaissance, Artillery, ALO, deputy S3), allowing for immediate face-to-face coordination.

The company's headquarters platoon establishes its Operation Center (POC) with the operations officer and systems analyst as part of the Regimental TOC. This arrangement accomplishes several important tasks:

  • The POC gathers reports from the collection systems and passes them immediately and "unfiltered" to the company commander in the Jump TOC.

  • The POC is able to rapidly transmit the EW support plan for the Regimental Commander's battle orders back to those systems.

  • The EW Commander is where he can see the battlefield, observe the effects of REC and rapidly adjust his unit's efforts to support the Regimental Commander's intent. This position allows him to anticipate rather than react to requirements for jamming, interception, and enables him to build and maintain a believable deception plan.

60TH MRD TACTICS

Reconnaissance: Prior to reconnaissance, the latest intercepts dispatched to the troops are shared with the chief of reconnaissance to narrow his intelligence collection efforts and enhance his success. The known or suspected locations of BLUFOR observation posts (OPs), security units or obstacles are used to plan infiltration routes and OPs that avoid contact. Intercepts help cue reconnaissance assets to confirm or deny the suspected locations of high value targets and are also continually plotted to focus or shift reconnaissance efforts. Because the EW commander is forward with the Regimental Commander rather than at the TOC, this face-to-face coordination is accurate, timely, and constantly updated.

Jamming and Interception: Jamming is used to disrupt the BLUFOR's ability to command his forces. Jamming and interception are also used as force protection measures to negate BLUFOR observation, fires, and air defense. Interception is becoming more difficult for the OPFOR as rotational units increase their proficiency with the SINCGARS frequency-hopping radios. In the words of the Commander of the 511th MI Company: "If the BLUFOR unit is trained to standard on use of frequency hopping, we're out of business." The ability of the OPFOR to conduct interception is made much easier when BLUFOR units use inadequate radio discipline. BLUFOR artillery units rarely pass their digital traffic in the frequency-hopping mode, which allows these unique nets to be acquired for an attack upon them (either electronically or with fires).

Fires: The OPFOR listens for the digital traffic that is passed from COLT OPs or target acquisition radar CPs to the FDCs. Possible BLUFOR OP locations that are plotted by the Chief of Reconnaissance are monitored for radio traffic (as well as scoured by HIND and foot patrols). If transmissions are detected, they are plotted via direction-finding techniques, and then fires or attacks are quickly delivered upon them. The OPFOR unit that the BLUFOR has observed also conducts a survivability move to negate their report. Prior to each OPFOR fire mission, the Chief of Artillery informs the EW Commander so that he can intercept and jam BLUFOR target acquisition radar frequencies. This prevents effective counter fires on OPFOR batteries by either jamming known enemy frequencies or intercepting them, as they become active in response to the OPFOR artillery attack. The same is done for air strikes. The Air Direction Officer tells the EW Commander the time and location for ingress, egress, and target of the inbound BLUFOR aircraft so that he may conduct "electronic SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defense)." Known or suspected Air Defense Early Warning nets are jammed immediately prior to the attack or are intercepted, plotted and attacked.

Deception: The OPFOR EW company is adept at passing false traffic as well as imitative deception.

  • False traffic is an effort to deceive the BLUFOR by using OPFOR EW stations to broadcast bogus radio conversations that paint a false picture of OPFOR plans, intentions and actions. As all actual and deceptive OPFOR traffic is conducted over unsecured AN/VRC-12 series radios, sorting out the wheat from the chaff is difficult for BLUFOR EW units. The OPFOR false traffic is an integral part of the Regiment's deception plan ("maskirovka"), and compliments the false picture of feints, smoke, and helicopter insertions. If the OPFOR EW company is also intercepting the BLUFOR's command or intelligence nets, then they will adjust their traffic to tell them what they want to hear or confirm their fears. Because the EW Company Commander is incorporated into all parts of OPFOR planning, he knows the Regimental Commander's deception plan as well as the actual intent and can quickly adjust his output to keep the BLUFOR from correctly discerning between the two.

  • Imitative deception is the forte of the OPFOR EW company's "con men" that enter BLUFOR radio nets and broadcast false and confusing orders. This action is made easier by BLUFOR units that do not use frequencies and callsigns in accordance with their Signal Operating Instructions (SOIs), but instead choose "Hollywood" callsigns and unauthorized frequencies and hop sets.

  • The OPFOR conducts what is called a "bottom-up EW attack" by scanning the spectrum for BLUFOR conversations in plain text. These conversations are normally within a platoon's assigned radio frequency, on an unauthorized frequency, or from an organization that is inadequately trained on use of the equipment and cannot secure or frequency-hop their radios. Tank and infantry platoons most commonly demonstrate the first two traits while Army Aviation and Combat Service Support (CSS) nets are prone to the latter.

  • Having located the target, and having decided to attack rather than to passively eavesdrop, the OPFOR enters the conversation using either a similar callsign, or bluffs its way in by imitating a higher headquarters or a station needing assistance. The standard response by the OPFOR is the operator's initials. Nine out of ten units either never challenge the intruder to authenticate or simply accept the enemy's false reply! These imitations never imitate real distress situations, but rather the mundane requests that units routinely make (such as the grids to the UMCP, MOPP status, chow times, etc.). Another variation is for the OPFOR to listen for radio traffic that is encrypted but on a single channel; the BLUFOR operators on this net are then coaxed into switching to a non-secure mode. Units are persuaded to leave the secure mode by conducting a fake, unsecured conversation on the frequency that normally results in exchanges such as this:

    BLUFOR: "Last calling station, you are stepping all over my net! Knock it off!"

    OPFOR: "Sorry, but my SOI says that this is my frequency today."

    BLUFOR: "What is your unit?"

    OPFOR: "I'm the Chaplain for the 1st of the 433d Messkit Repair Battalion; who the heck are you?" (The OPFOR uses a unit from the BLUFOR order of battle or makes it up).

    BLUFOR: "This is the command frequency for Delta company, 1st of the 4th Armor."

    OPFOR: "Well, you must be on the wrong day. Send me your grid, and I'll come over there and show you. By the way, got any Parakeet Worshipers in your unit? It's a holy day for them, and I'll conduct a service there if you want."

REC Integration Tactics: The OPFOR closely integrates REC with the other BOSs. To demonstrate:

A typical offensive operation will be examined. During an attack from the march, the Regimental Commander will order a penetration of the BLUFOR at a designated point. The Regimental commander needs information to support that course of action, specifically on where in the sector the BLUFOR is weakest, to select the point of penetration.

The EW Commander will ask the POC what information it has on BLUFOR strengths in sector. The POC responds with known and suspected company team locations and compositions detected from direction finding or gleaned from intercepts. The EW Commander and Chief of Reconnaissance check the EW data against the reports from the reconnaissance troops. Their consolidated reply to the Regimental Commander is to tell him the axis along which the BLUFOR is weakest.

The commander's decision on the point of penetration is then supported by the massing of all available means--maneuver units, fires (direct, indirect, air), and REC. REC supports the attack by jamming previously detected BLUFOR frequencies (scout and COLT OPs, TF and company team command nets, and FS voice and digital nets). They apply deception by broadcasting false or confusing orders to the enemy (telling their OPs, platoons or teams to displace or cease fire, NBC warnings). They protect the OPFOR by monitoring enemy calls for fire, radar zone violations, or CAS strikes. These REC effects are synchronized with the effect of the maneuver and fires because they all strike at the same time, causing tremendous shock effect upon the targeted enemy--our BLUFOR units.


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