Friday, December 18, 2015

russia perfected its kung fu while uhmurkah uselessly shot its wad in the desert...,


fp |  It comes at different times, and in different forms. But as they have charted the war in southeast Ukraine over the past year, drones flown by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe have run into the same problem: Russian troops on the ground are jamming them into virtual blindness.

It’s just one part of a sophisticated Russian electronic warfare (EW) effort in Ukraine that has proved a sobering experience for the U.S. Army. Faced with how the newly modernized Russian army is operating in Ukraine and Syria — using equipment like the Krasukha-4, which jams radar and aircraft —American military officials are being forced to admit they’re scrambling to catch up.

Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of U.S. Army units in Europe, hasdescribed Russian EW capabilities in Ukraine as “eye-watering.” Ronald Pontius, deputy to Army Cyber Command’s chief, Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon, told a conference this month that “you can’t but come to the conclusion that we’re not making progress at the pace the threat demands.”

The electronic war was on display from the start of the Russian incursion into Crimea in the spring of 2014. Not long after Russian EW equipment began rolling into the region, Ukrainian troops began to find that their radios and phones were unusable for hours at a time. Meanwhile, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, an international conflict-monitoring group, has consistently reported that its drones watching the conflict in eastern Ukraine have been subject to military-grade GPS jamming,” forcing monitors to scrub missions taking stock of the war below.

At the forefront of the push to get the U.S. Army up to speed is Col. Jeffrey Church, the Army’s chief of electronic warfare. But it won’t be easy. Dealing with falling budgets, a lack of EW equipment, and a force that is shrinking by tens of thousands of troops, Church says that he has managed to train only a few hundred soldiers — a fraction of the EW forces that are fielded by potential adversaries like Russia and China.

“They have companies, they have battalions, they have brigades that are dedicated to the electronic warfare mission,” Church said in an interview with Foreign Policy. Those units are deploying “with specific electronic warfare equipment, with specific electronic warfare chains of command,” he said.

Currently, 813 soldiers make up the Army’s EW mission, for which just over 1,000 positions have been authorized. And other Army units are guarding against Church’s attempts to peel away soldiers from their ranks to join his. The staffing squeeze is only expected to get worse as the overall Army contracts: At its peak during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army had about 570,000 soldiers; it is on pace to be down to 450,000 by the end of 2017. That number could slide even further, to 420,000 over the next several years, if Washington deadlocks over a long-term budget deal in the coming months.

At the moment, U.S. Army battalions typically assign two soldiers to the EW mission, and they will “have to do 24-hour operations” in battle against sophisticated enemies, Church said. That includes planning and coordinating with other battalion units as well as ensuring that their own jammers and advanced communications tools are working. “There’s too much to do for those guys in a battalion,” Church said. “So how do you maintain in a high-intensity environment against a peer enemy?”