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Archive for the ‘CEMA’ Category

ACC Announces 24th and 25th NAF Merger

Saturday, April 6th, 2019

JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. (AFNS)– —

Air Combat Command is merging 24th and 24th numbered Air Forces at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, this summer to better integrate cyber effects, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations, electronic warfare operations and information operations.

The synergy between cyber, ISR, EW and IO will increase unity of effort across these capabilities, resulting in new and improved options for combatant commanders. The integration also better aligns these units with priorities outlined in the 2018 National Defense Strategy and delivers the first “Information Warfare” NAF for the Air Force.

“The merger of 24th and 25th is the next step in leveraging and integrating new ideas and technologies to both improve the quality and speed of decision-making and deliver improved effects for commanders,” said Gen. Mike Holmes, ACC commander. “This formalizes the existing collaborations between cyber and ISR while expanding our competitive space in EW and IO, ultimately improving readiness and increasing lethality across the range of military operations – all vital to the success of multi-domain warfighting in the 21st century.”

The new IW NAF bolsters the Air Force’s ability to present electromagnetic spectrum forces and capabilities to execute missions alongside joint and interagency partners.

While the final organizational structure has not yet been determined, ACC anticipates an activation ceremony at JB San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, in late summer of 2019.

Story by Air Combat Command Public Affairs. Graphic by Mr Robert Young.

The GUHOR Stick!

Saturday, February 16th, 2019

GUHOR Stick? What the heck is a GUHOR Stick and what does it have to do with SSD? Well, as some of you may know, I spent the first half of my career in the Army MI business, primarily as a SIGINTer. Since the Army in its infinite wisdom decided to dismantle and then stovepipe its IW capability over the past 25 years, I feel it’s important to revisit the history of the SIGINT business as it is recreated in the form of Cyber Electro Magnetic Activities, or CEMA.

The GUHOR Stick is one of the most important tool ever invented for the traffic analyst (TA). Solutions to the most intricate communications networks often began with this simple device.

No self-respecting TA was ever without one close at hand. Like the six-shooter of the old West, the analyst kept it at his or her side, always ready to draw- circles, boxes, and lines.

The GUHOR Stick, in its most recent and best known iteration, is merely a 6? by 1.5? clear plastic template. Its prime purpose is to facilitate the drawing of communications diagrams, although its secondary uses are endless. It comes equipped with a large circle at one end to draw control terminals, a smaller circle at the other end for outstations, and a small rectangle in the center for communications relays and collective (CQ) calls. The straight edges are used to connect these stations and show communications paths. With this tool, a #2 pencil (with extra erasers), some graph paper, and several pencils of various colored leads, the analyst of old was fully prepared to face any communications adversary.

GUHOR Stick! But where did this strange name come from? Putting my analytical skills to work, I set out to research the issue. To my surprise, there was a higher than expected number of individuals who had heard the name. Most were seasoned veterans from a mixture of professions, including linguists, reporters, managers, executives, and, naturally, traffic analysts. But there was more than a little discussion about what this device was and where its name originated.

The early returns were mixed, however. I was still searching for the definitive word. It was at this point when I began to get responses from members of a Communications Analysis Association (CAA) interest group.  A number of seasoned veterans recounted their GUHOR experiences and, in a number of colorful responses, gave me what I believe to be the true scoop.

GUHOR Sticks as traffic analysis tools have been around for decades. Some CAA respondents remembered seeing or using them in one form or another from at least the early 1960s. Even so, a couple of questions remain unanswered. Who invented it?  Why was it given this curious name? Someone out there knows. If you can solve the mystery, we (Station HYPO) are ready to hear a good story.

All this discussion about GUHOR Sticks may be moot. These devices are few and far between these days. The GUHOR Stick does not have a federal stock number. They were made in batches at NSA by special order; however, they are fast becoming collector items. With the advent software, many analysts are using computer graphics to diagram their targets. The traditional circles and lines on paper are becoming passé. Most GUHOR Sticks that are found are being employed for many a sundry task-not for crafting the intricate networks of old, but for drawing nondescript lines and symbols unrelated to the trade of traffic analysis.

Those on field duty in the Pacific used a similar device which they called a “pooka-maker.” Pooka is a Hawaiian word for “hole.”

Source: NSA CRYTPOLOG July, 1994 (MDR Case #54778)

Edited by Mario Vulcano

To read more history, visit Station HYPO.

New US Army Electronic Warfare Vehicle Tested At Ft Irwin

Friday, February 15th, 2019

FORT IRWIN, Calif. — The Army’s newest electronic warfare vehicle was tested at the Army’s toughest training ground, the National Training Center in Fort Irwin California in January.

Electronic Warfare Soldiers from 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team “Greywolf,” 1st Cavalry Division conducted electronic attack and electronic support operations during the month-long exercise using the Electronic Warfare Tactical Vehicle (EWTV).

“Our main purpose was to provide support by denying communications to the enemy, jamming comms,” said Sgt. First Class Cristian Holguin, the EWTV team leader. “In addition we were able to listen in on FM communications from the enemy and detect enemy electronic signatures to use for call for fire missions.”

The brigade received the Army’s first dedicated electronic warfare vehicle in September of 2018 in time to test it out during the Brigade’s external evaluation, Pegasus Forge III, at Fort Hood, Texas. The team then provided feedback to the team at the Rapid Equipping Force, which had developed the vehicle.

“It’s like version one of the system. And for being version one it is a very good system,” said Holguin. “The folks at REF listened to our feedback following Pegasus Forge and actually were making upgrades to the vehicle as we were on ground at NTC.”

According to Staff Sgt. Darron McCracken, a EWTV operator, the shortened timetable between Pegasus Forge and NTC presented a challenge to the team, but they were able to overcome them and help integrate the system fully at the brigade and battalion-levels.

“Initially the battalions were a little skeptical of the system. Not only was it an asset they had to provide forces to help protect, but it’s a pretty big vehicle as well,” he said. “But once they saw what it could do and they benefited from its effects, they recognized the benefits of the system.”

The near-peer enemy along with the terrain and elements that the Brigade faced at NTC made it an ideal environment to test the EWTV. Once the force-on-force fight was completed, the team conducted situational training that helped further test the capabilities of the vehicle.

“We worked on finding ways to better improve our jamming and detection capabilities,” said Staff Sgt. Francisco Becerra, a EWTV Operator. “For instance, we learned by raising the antenna two more inches we were able to getter better lines of bearing. These are things that you can’t necessarily test out in the middle of a fight.”

Measuring the performance of the vehicle at NTC was sometimes difficult to do since there was no immediate feedback through real time measures and sensors. According to Holguin it is something that NTC is working to improve, however they were able to validate and measure effects in other ways.

“There are two aspects of performance. Performance of the equipment and performance of the teams themselves,” Holguin said. “And I think we’ve accomplished more than we expected for integration and employment; having and using the EWTV validated our position as an effective asset on the battlefield.”

Greywolf was the first to test the vehicle in an austere environment against a near-peer foe, but they won’t be the last. The EWTVs belong to III Corps and are being moved to other units so that their teams can test them and add their inputs to improve the system.

“The intent is to take all of the lessons learned and build on it,” said McCracken. “Towards the end of the process we will have an SOP, something that is predictable and can be translated across the Army.”

When asked if, after testing it out at NTC, they felt it was an effective system, McCracken answered, “Absolutely. Absolutely.”

The new vehicle was developed to provide Army Electronic Warfare Teams with the ability to detect and attack in the electromagnetic spectrum from an operationally relevant range at the brigade combat team level. It was developed by the Rapid Equipping Force to give the Army’s Brigade Combat Team a dedicated electronic warfare vehicle.

By CPT Scott Kuhn

Cyber Soldiers Reflect Upon Their Mission, Professional Opportunities

Wednesday, February 6th, 2019

FORT IRWIN, Calif. — Army cyber warriors often say one of the things they like about cyber as a career is that it offers the challenges and opportunities of engaging in cyberspace operations either at a desk or in a tactical environment.

Sgt. Alexander Lecea, Spc. Ashley Lethrud-Adams and Pfc. Kleeman Avery are Cyberspace Operations Specialists assigned to the Expeditionary Cyber Support Detachment (ECSD), 782nd Military Intelligence Battalion (Cyber) who were recently at the National Training Center, supporting a training rotation for a battalion from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team (BCT) of the 1st Cavalry Division.

All three say they chose an Army cyber career because of that mix — being able to move between working in an office and taking part in operations and exercises.

The detachment provides, “A little bit of both aspects of the cyber field,” Lecea said. “You get hands-on technical training — you can do this job in an office. But at the same time you can do it in the field. And there are real-world applications.”

While cyberspace operations can be done in an office, it’s not as effective as being on the ground with maneuver units, the sergeant said.

During training exercises such as this rotation in the southern California desert, the trio functioned alongside the cavalry battalion as an Expeditionary Cyber Team that provided cyber effects and intelligence for the rotational training brigade, Lecea said.

“We provide the maneuver commander with cyber effects and support the troops on the ground,” working in concert with the 3rd BCT’s Electronic Warfare officer and Cyber Electromagnetic Activities (CEMA) chief, Lecea explained, to achieve the brigade commander’s intent and guidance.

Lecea said he went became a cyber warrior because he, “wanted to do something that was challenging and rewarding and also have applications outside the Army. It’s one of the toughest [Military Occupational Specialties], but at the same time I feel that it’s the most rewarding. You have a lot of challenging situations and you have to use your brain. You have to have good teamwork, too.”

The sergeant said he isn’t sure if he will stay in uniform long-term, but added that the Army also offers training opportunities that will prepare him for the future, whether or not he reenlists.

“We’re talking about SEC+, NET+, a lot of industry standards certifications you’ll need outside in the civilian world to get hired. It’s all the stuff they look for,” he said.

“I was interested in the field and I didn’t just want to go to college, so I joined Army Cyber,” said Lethrud-Adams. “The Army is a great opportunity because you’re getting paid to learn all this stuff and you get experiences you wouldn’t get elsewhere in the world. You’re not going to get experiences like this in college.”

Lethrud-Adams said his favorite part of cyber operations is malware analysis, and his two teammates vehemently agreed.

Avery, the newest Soldier on the team, said he wants to become an ION (Interactive On-Net Operator) and eventually join the FBI.

Until then, he said, he enjoys the challenges of cyber operations and trying to figure things out.

Story and photos by Steven P. Stover, INSCOM.

Army Wins Packard Award for Rapid Delivery of Electronic Warfare Prototypes

Monday, December 24th, 2018

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — For their efforts in answering an Operational Needs Statement from U.S. Army Europe and delivering first-of-a-kind electronic warfare prototypes for brigade and below, the Army Rapid Capabilities Office and Project Manager Electronic Warfare & Cyber have earned the 2018 David Packard Award for Acquisition Excellence.

The award, announced Dec. 7 by Hon. Ellen Lord, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, is the Department of Defense’s most prestigious acquisition team award and is given annually to a few select recipients across the armed services and defense agencies. It recognizes organizations with significant contributions demonstrating exemplary innovation and best acquisition practices.

“This award is a remarkable honor and we are proud of the unique partnership that was formed between the two organizations to close a strategic capability gap against a rapidly modernizing adversary,” said Dr. Bruce Jette, Army Acquisition Executive. “Their approach, working with operational units every step of the way, enabled the Army to move much faster than traditional acquisition methods and serves as a model for other Army rapid acquisition efforts.”

In addition to the Army Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) and Project Manager Electronic Warfare & Cyber (PM EW&C), other winners of the 2018 David Packard award were the Air Force’s Enhanced Polar System Team, the Special Operations Command’s Stand-Off Precision Guided Munitions Team, and the Missile Defense Agency’s Spacebased Kill Assessment Program Management Office.

Soldiers with CEWI Platoon, Delta Company, 54th Brigade Engineer Battalion, provide actionable signal intelligence to help the 173rd Airborne Brigade during Saber Junction 18 in Germany. Soldiers with the 173rd were among the first units to receive the new electronic warfare prototype systems provided by the Army Rapid Capabilities Office and Project Manager Electronic Warfare & Cyber in response to an Operational Needs Statement.

The Army award was based on the delivery of new equipment to the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, and the 1st and 2nd Armored Brigades, 1st Infantry Division. The prototypes, fielded earlier this year, enable Soldiers to implement electronic protection for their own formations, detect and understand enemy activity in the electromagnetic spectrum, and disrupt adversaries through electronic attack effects.

This freedom of action is essential to ground maneuver operations, since the majority of equipment, vehicles and air support Soldiers rely on to complete their missions either emit, receive on, are connected into, or are otherwise networked back into the electromagnetic spectrum or cyber domain.

In Europe, where Russian aggression, tactics and capabilities have demonstrated the ability to use the electromagnetic spectrum to affect military operations, the impact of the prototype capabilities is significant.

“This award is a testament to the outstanding work of the men and women of both PM EW&C as well as our RCO partners,” said Maj. Gen. Kirk Vollmecke, program executive officer for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare & Sensors. “We are extremely proud to have piloted this effort as it afforded the Army an opportunity to accelerate its EW capabilities and close the capability gaps with our near peers. The implementation of agile, adaptive acquisition processes are imperative as we balance the immediate needs of our men and women in the field today along with future enduring requirements.”

The team’s acquisition approach — which adapted existing systems and incorporated emerging technologies to provide new electronic warfare effects and meet the emerging threat — represented a fundamental and innovative shift in how the Army delivers a new capability. In teaming up, the organizations created a phased prototyping, experimentation and fielding approach that incorporated Soldier feedback throughout, infused new technology as it became available, and quickly delivered incremental upgrades to reduce operational risk while also informing the program of record capabilities currently under development.

It also enabled the Army to move faster than traditional acquisition methods have allowed in the past, delivering needed capabilities into the hands of Soldiers approximately a year after they were first envisioned.

“In delivering these electronic warfare systems to Europe in less than 12 months, it demonstrated how the Army can go fast, streamline processes and meet the needs of a combatant commander,” said Col. John Eggert, acting executive director of the Army RCO. “What enabled this success was the total team effort between the RCO and PM EW&C on iterative prototyping that was informed early and often by Soldier advice.”

The systems, which include mounted, dismounted and command and control systems, are prototypes that serve as an interim solution until the Army’s enduring EW programs of record can be fielded.

Winners will receive the award at a Department of Defense ceremony held at the Pentagon in February.

By U.S. Army Public Affairs

Cyber Force Looks To Grow With Boost To Electronic Warfare

Wednesday, November 21st, 2018

WASHINGTON — With the cyber domain expected to see constant battles in future warfare, Army leaders say new efforts are underway to strengthen the Army’s cyber force so it can defend forward against adversaries.

Spc. Victorious Fuqua, left center, and Staff Sgt. Isaias Laureano, right, both cyber operations specialists from the Expeditionary Cyber Support Detachment, 782nd Military Intelligence Battalion (Cyber), from Fort Gordon, Ga., provide offensive cyber operations during training at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., Jan. 18-24, 2018. The Army’s cyber force plans to incorporate more electronic warfare and information operations assets in its future mission. (Photo Credit: Steven P. Stover)

One aspect being bolstered is electronic warfare. The Army has now placed 29-series EW Soldiers into cyber’s 17-series career field as the service zeroes in on it.

“We have really focused on the next phase of development and that’s in our electronic warfare force,” said Brig. Gen. Jennifer Buckner, director of cyber in the Army’s G-3/5/7 office.

The goal is to combine EW assets along with cyber and information operations capabilities across all echelons of the Army.

The Multi-Domain Task Force, which has experimented with those capabilities in the Pacific, will continue to serve as a proving ground. This fiscal year, there are plans to stand up an EW platoon within I Corps to support the U.S. Army Pacific-led task force.

“That will be kind of the first test case for our electronic warfare organizations,” Buckner said Thursday during an interview at the International Cyber Conference on Cyber Conflict U.S., or CyCon U.S. “We’re going to experiment with the capabilities as much as we’re going to also try to validate force design that we’ve put on paper.”

Sgt. Camille Coffey, a cyber operations specialist from the Expeditionary Cyber Support Detachment, 782nd Military Intelligence Battalion (Cyber), from Fort Gordon, Ga., provides offensive cyber operations as part of the Cyber Electromagnetic Activities Support to Corps and Below program at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., Jan. 18-24, 2018. The Army’s cyber force plans to incorporate more electronic warfare and information operations assets in its future mission. (Photo Credit: Steven P. Stover )

In the coming years, the plan is to place an EW platoon in every brigade combat team’s military intelligence company. New EW companies will also fall under expeditionary military intelligence brigades.

Cyber and electromagnetic activity cells, or CEMA, will even be built up to advise commanders at the brigade, division, corps and Army Service Component Command levels.

“We’ll have an operational force and we’ll also have the planning and staff element that would help employ them,” Buckner said.

An additional piece, she added, is the Cyber Warfare Support Battalion. The battalion will grow over the next five to six years and include about 600 personnel in expeditionary cyber teams.

The idea behind it is “that we can tailor force packages, if you will, to downward reinforce to tactical levels,” she said.

Personnel numbers in the other efforts are still being worked on and will depend on the Army’s end strength and growth, she added.

Army leaders also hope to help fill its cyber ranks with more cadets and civilian professionals.

Brig. Gen. Jennifer Buckner, second from right, director of cyber within the Army’s G3/5/7 office, participates in a panel discussion at the International Conference on Cyber Conflict U.S. in Washington, D.C., Nov. 15, 2018. CyCon U.S. ensures outreach to bridge gaps and to promote information exchange across Army, military, and academic, industry, and government cyber communities. (Photo Credit: Pfc. Aaron Mitchell)

Throughout the ROTC community, there are about 50 cadets who commission into cyber each year.

At the U.S. Military Academy, many cadets have also expressed interest to commission into cyber. As of right now, though, only 26 cadets at the academy can do so.

“We got a large amount of interest [but] don’t quite have the demand side right yet from the Army,” said Col. Andrew Hall, director of the Army Cyber Institute, which is located at West Point, New York.

Cadets who branch into military intelligence or signal will benefit the cyber force, too.

“That’s also a huge win for us because those are our primary partners in this fight,” Buckner said.

Last year, the Army Cyber Command began the Cyber Direct Commissioning Program in an effort to entice cyber experts in the civilian world to suit up in an Army uniform.

The program received around 250 applicants and at least two of them — former enlisted Soldiers — were commissioned as first lieutenants in May.

Those who qualify under the program have the opportunity to join the Army as first lieutenant, with the possibility of a higher rank. Up to $65,000 in student loan repayment over the course of an officer’s initial three-year term is also on the table to attract desired applicants.

The program is currently searching for its first applicant to be automatically promoted to colonel.

“Right now, we have a system where generally an 18-year-old is the target,” Hall said of Army recruiting. “But we’re saying what happens if someone wakes up at 37 and decides that they want to serve? What happens if that person has had an entire portfolio of work where they could step in … as a battalion commander?”

While atypical, he noted, direct commissions were common during World War II to fill in gaps.

“We want to have flexibility so that we don’t limit patriotic service to 18-year-olds,” he said. “We want to give the entire country an opportunity to serve.”

Cutting Through The Noise: Army, Industry Work Together To Speed Up Signal Detection

Friday, November 16th, 2018

WASHINGTON — The Army Rapid Capabilities Office, or RCO, does things differently. It has to. It’s mandated in its charter and embedded in its culture.

So when it came time for the small acquisition shop to find a way to speed up signal detection, it knew it wouldn’t seek answers using traditional methods.

Instead, the RCO studied commercial models for getting answers quickly and created a “challenge” that gave industry, academia, scientists and other agencies the opportunity to go head-to-head in a competition, with prize money awarded to the top three performers.

The challenge focused on using artificial intelligence and machine learning to speed up the rate at which electronic warfare officers, or EWOs, could sift through the congestion and noise that comes with signal detection. With an ever-increasing number of signals flooding in from satellites, radars, phones and other devices, the signal detection process is no longer efficient in understanding the vast amount of data presented to EWOs on the battlefield.

Soldiers with the Combat Electronic Warfare Intelligence Platoon, Delta Company, 54th Brigade Engineer Battalion provide signal intelligence to help the 173rd Airborne Brigade during Saber Junction 18, held in September 2018 in Germany. As more and more signals are captured by satellites, radars and other devices, the signal detection process is no longer efficient in understanding the vast amount of data presented to EWOs on the battlefield. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Spc. Josselyn Fuentes)

Within four months of setting up the Army Signal Classification Challenge, the RCO knew mathematically who had the best-performing algorithm.

The challenge also had an unexpected result. By offering an unorthodox method for garnering participation in what would have been a traditional request for information, or RFI, the RCO challenge resulted in the top three prize winners spanning the unconventional by including a federally-funded research and development center, an independent group of Australian scientists and a team from a big business.

“By structuring this as a challenge instead of an RFI, we were able to model what industry does and create something much more hands-on,” said Rob Monto, director of the RCO’s Emerging Technologies Office. “We invited anyone with a possible capability to participate and posted it on Challenge.gov and FBO.gov. This is very similar to the commercial model of posting on Kaggle.com, where data sets are sent out to communities of data scientists who want to compete against one another to determine who has the best solution.”

The RCO’s online challenge offered synthetically generated data based on what could be seen in the electromagnetic spectrum, and challenged participants to prove they had the best artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithm for performing “blind” signal classification quickly and accurately. The challenge was strictly performance-based and open to anyone. Because it was all online and completed in four months, it came with very little cost or burden placed on those participating.

“The response was overwhelming,” Monto said. “We had more than 150 participants from across traditional and nontraditional industry partners, universities, labs and government. As an incentive, we offered $150,000 in prize money.”

Team Platypus from The Aerospace Corp. won first prize in the Army Signal Classification Challenge over the summer of 2018. The team includes (front row, from left) Eugene Grayver, Alexander Utter and Andres Vila; and (back row, from left) Donna Branchevsky, Esteban Valles, Darren Semmen, Sebastian Olsen and Kyle Logue. (Photo Credit: Photo courtesy Elisa Haber, The Aerospace Corp)

The RCO announced winners on Aug. 27, 2018. First place and $100,000 went to Team Platypus from The Aerospace Corp., a national nonprofit corporation that operates a federally-funded research and development center. Second place, with an award of $30,000, went to TeamAU, made up of a small team of independent Australian data scientists. And third place, with a prize of $20,000, went to THUNDERINGPANDA of Motorola Solutions.

“Having a specific problem that can be worked on by industry, academia and private citizens is a great way to establish and build a community of innovators for this technology area,” said Dr. Andres Vila, an engineering specialist at The Aerospace Corp. and a member of Team Platypus. “This challenge, which extended for approximately three months, was the right balance of having time to formulate a unique and robust solution but also not so long that the team lost urgency to find that award-winning approach.”

The challenge proved a better way to assess industry’s capabilities, instead of using a more traditional RFI and white paper approach, Vila said, calling it “spot on.”

“The challenge arrived at a great time as we were just kicking off this research and the Army had a well-formed problem set and, most importantly, data,” Vila said. “This competition gave us the chance to take our latest innovations and prototypes and apply them to this new customer-curated, hard problem. These types of customer-sponsored competitions provide very focused challenges that give us the confidence that we are using the best technology available to meet their mission needs.”

THE PROBLEM SET

The idea for the challenge stemmed from the RCO’s partnership with the Project Manager for Electronic Warfare and Cyber, within the Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems, which recently delivered new electronic warfare prototype systems in response to an operational needs statement from U.S. Army Europe. Soldiers are using the equipment to implement electronic protection for their own formations, to detect and understand enemy activity in the electromagnetic spectrum and to disrupt adversaries through electronic attack effects.

However, in enhancing the signal footprint for EWOs, the prototype systems also brought more data to an already complex electromagnetic spectrum. Through the challenge, the RCO wanted to determine if artificial intelligence and machine learning, or AI/ML, could assist them in digesting that data and sorting through what is and isn’t important.

“We knew industry was already making leaps and bounds in applying AI/ML for image recognition and video recognition, but found that there was very little work being done in this specific area of signal detection,” Monto said. “What we discovered in a very short period of time is that AI/ML could in fact be applied to a data set that could translate to being integrated into an electronic warfare system on the battlefield.”

The idea is to create this application as a layering effect, where artificial intelligence and machine learning does one subset of signal classification for the EWOs, then layers other applications that are more encompassing onto that to give the EWOs a wider range of what they can identify, said Monto.

While the EWOs would remain as the lead for identifying signals of interest and analyzing their impact, the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning could help them quickly and accurately detect patterns, identify signals of significance, filter out unwanted signal noise and paint a picture of the electromagnetic spectrum.

THE CHALLENGE

The RCO’s Army Signal Classification Challenge began April 30 and closed Aug. 13. After opening registration online, competitors were given access to the training data set, consisting of over 4.3 million instances across 24 different modulations, which included a noise class. (The noise class represents “white” noise to replicate the real-life environment that signals would be detected in, rather than a pristine lab environment.) The effort sought solutions that could perform “blind” signal classification quickly and accurately. Blind signal classification requires little to no prior knowledge about the signal being detected in that specific instance. Instead, the solution would automatically classify the modulation, or change of a radio frequency waveform, as a first step toward signal classification.

The challenge gave participants 90 days to develop their models and to work with the training data sets. That was followed by two test data sets of varying complexity that were the basis for judging submissions. The first data set was released 67 days after the challenge launch, with a solution submission window of 15 days. A second, more complex test data set was released 84 days after the challenge launch, with a shorter submission window of only seven days.

Participants’ scores were based on a combined weighted score for both test data sets. Competitors could see how well they were performing against their peers through a participant leader board that showed scores in real time.

For first-place winners Team Platypus — which participated in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Software Defined Radio Hackfest 2017 and whose name references platypuses’ ability to detect electrical fields with their bills — the challenge lined up perfectly with its core research in artificial intelligence and advanced signal processing.

“We really enjoyed the challenge process, which included the hard problem curation, providing training data and a specific scoring algorithm,” Vila said. “To do this with the highest level of confidence, we had to use a multipronged approach. We built statistics and metrics inspired by communication principles, and we also developed deep learning classifiers that work directly on the raw data. We ended up using several state-of-the-art AI techniques to achieve the winning submission.”

Their technology includes an algorithm trained to identify what kind of signal is present in the midst of a congested radio frequency environment, much like Soldiers would find in an urban core or battlefield where both friendly and enemy radio communications are being detected.

WHAT’S NEXT?

By structuring this effort as a challenge and not going through the traditional RFI process, the RCO proved it could take an industry model and move fast. For its efforts, it is substantially closer to identifying a potential solution that could be applied to battlefield electronic warfare capabilities in the very near future. It also showed the RCO could harness the promise of artificial intelligence and machine learning by applying it to a specific problem. The amount of interest and quality of performance, including from nontraditional organizations, was remarkable.

Now the RCO is quickly moving forward to the next step, with two possible options. First, the RCO could initiate a second, more intense challenge and open it up to only the top performers in the first challenge. Or, the RCO could begin to immediately move the algorithms into the hands of Soldiers through software enhancements to their existing electronic warfare equipment. This would enable the Soldiers to give immediate feedback and enable the Army to incrementally build capability.

Over the next several months, the RCO will begin to advance what was learned from the challenge, potentially prototyping the leading artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms into Army electronic warfare systems.

For more information on the Army RCO, go to rapidcapabilitiesoffice.army.mil.

By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest, Army Rapid Capabilities

NANCY JONES-BONBREST is a public communications specialist for the Army RCO and has written extensively about Army modernization and acquisition for several years, including multiple training and testing events. She holds a B.S. in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park.

This article will be published in the January – March 2019 issue of Army AL&T.

Electronic warfare: A Battlefield on a Different Wavelength

Monday, October 22nd, 2018

ZAGAN, Poland — Soldiers on the ground are now capable of rapidly reacting to electronic and cyber data rather than waiting on their higher echelons.

Soldiers assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, currently deployed in Poland, are among the first brigades supporting Atlantic Resolve to train on a new system that enables a team to forward deploy and respond to enemy frequencies using new electronic warfare, or EW, technology.

Electronic warfare, known as the battle in the electromagnetic spectrum, relies on data and signals to survey, fight and defend. Collecting enemy radio signals, sensing radar of an incoming threat, and utilizing radio waves to confuse or disable an enemy’s electronic communication methods are all means in which electronic warfare specialist teams strive to train to perfection.

Team members are learning to better operate and integrate EW capabilities, including the VROD, VMAX and Raven Claw. The VROD and VMAX are part of the backpack system that surveys the field from an electromagnetic perspective and delivers limited electronic assault capabilities such as signal interception and jamming. Raven Claw, a mobile computer system, offers on-the-ground planning and management without any network connection.

“These teams are tied to surveying the battlefield, going out with the scouts and being the lead elements,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jerry Wheeler, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the electronic warfare section, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. “We’re using it for real-time information.”

Utilizing both dismounted and mounted systems allows forward deployed Soldiers to act on electromagnetic information as they receive it.

“Having it [EW technology] at this level helps a local commander make more EW type decisions,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Benjamin Donahue, an electronic warfare noncommissioned officer assigned to 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. “If you have it at only the high echelons, you’re waiting on a report to come down later, versus something you can do right now.”

Though Ironhorse Soldiers did not have the opportunity to train on the equipment before their rotational deployment across Europe, they quickly brought themselves up-to-date.

“We never saw it before we came out here,” said Wheeler. “We had a month of training at Grafenwoehr, Germany. In the future, you would train before coming out. We’ve got a good handle on it.”

Later this year, Soldiers in the electronic warfare field, in addition to the entire 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, will put their training to the test at Combined Resolve XI, a multinational training exercise at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, Hohenfels Training Area, Germany.

Story By SGT Lisa Vines

Photos by SFC Craig Norton