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Old 07-01-2017, 08:31 AM
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Arrow The U.S. Army’s Battlefield Networks Are Vulnerable to Russian Jamming

The U.S. Army’s Battlefield Networks Are Vulnerable to Russian Jamming
By: July 1, 2017 Kris Osborn

More radios mean more weak points!

A U.S. Army analysis of battlefield networks will likely closely assess the extent to which its flagship satellite communications and radio network can be “hardened” and made more resilient against the kinds of electronic warfare and cyberattacks likely to occur in a major-power, near-peer type mechanized war.

The Army’s mobile satcom and high-bandwidth communications network, the Warfighter Information Network Inc. 2, has been fielded to at least 16 Brigade Combat Teams and has performed well in combat during ongoing ground wars.

Unlike WIN-T Inc. 1, which transmits combat relevant information between “fixed” command centers, the Inc. 2 network uses a combination of vehicle-mounted radios and satellite-dish connectivity. Commanders can view digital maps showing terrain along with friendly and enemy force positions while on the move, or pull up information from an intelligence system called TIGR — or Tactical Ground Reporting System — which provides intelligence such as maps showing insurgent or roadside bomb locations and incident reports from high-risk locations.

TIGR and other command functions such as artillery plotting, airspace de-confliction and a combat mapping technology called the “Command Post of the Future” are designed to operate seamlessly between commanders and convoys in transit and large display screens at fixed command posts.

WIN-T Inc. 2 is also a “self-healing” network which can transition from radio to satcom nodes as needed, depending upon line-of-sight, R.F. connectivity, terrain and available bandwidth. Inc. 2 is especially relevant because it’s designed to extend the reach of the network from the brigade to battalion and even company level.

However, despite WIN-T Inc. 2’s success in counterinsurgency-type combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, critics of the network are raising questions as to its ability to perform amid jamming, electromagnetic interference and cyberattacks from a technologically advanced enemy.

Concerns along these lines have reverberated from a variety of sources, such as a recent report from the Pentagon’s Director, Operational Test and Evaluation, or DOT&E, and prominent members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The principle concern is about whether the technology will become vulnerable in the coming decades — despite the large amounts of money and developmental effort expended in pursuit of WIN-T.

These potential vulnerabilities are well understood by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, who has directed a review of the Army’s combat networks, including WIN-T Inc. 2. A review of this kind will assess the extent to which WIN-T Inc. 2 can be modified, upgraded or enhanced so it can perform in the highest-threat environments.

For instance, much is known about the anti-satellite weapons now in development by potential near-peer adversaries, and the fast pace of technological change makes GPS connectivity and communications networks more challenged and vulnerable.

All of the U.S. military services are focused upon harnessing emerging technologies to enable “precision, navigation and timing” in a GPS-denied environment where satellites are attacked and rendered inoperable. The Pentagon is also taking measures to harden GPS connections themselves.

Nonetheless, when assessing this phenomenon with a mind to WIN-T, it raises the question as to what would happen in a combat scenario if GPS satellites were destroyed and the WIN-T network was left to function purely through a terrestrial, ad-hoc network of software-programmable radios.

This question has found a resting place in the minds of WIN-T Inc. 2 developers at General Dynamics Mission Systems who are quick to acknowledge the perils of a fast-changing, modern threat landscape.

Engineers and WIN-T developers at General Dynamics are currently working on a range of “hardening” strategies, tactics and technological adjustments to address changing threats, Bill Weiss, vice president of ground systems for General Dynamics Mission Systems told Scout Warrior.

Ad-hoc terrestrial networks of software-programmable radios bring previously unprecedented advantages to the battlefield. Forces can use high-bandwidth waveforms to send I.P. packets of data, voice and video across the force in real time, without needing a fixed infrastructure of any kind.

This, quite naturally, allows for substantial mobility and connectivity in austere environments where other kinds of hard-wired networks or GPS systems would not be available. Each radio in these systems functions not only as a device to transmit information, but also as a “router” or “node” on the network extending connectivity.

“A directional antenna system will listen in every direction and send a beacon out to find its neighbors and establish a link,” Weiss said.

However, many militaries around the world were quick to take notice of the electronic warfare tactics employed by the Russian military in Ukraine.

This showed, among other things, that emerging technology now makes it easier to locate, and target, various kinds of electromagnetic signals emanating from things like radios. As a result, a software-programmable network of radios might have a difficult time reducing its signature — which turns the advantage of wireless signals into a liability.

General Dynamics engineers say they are developing several key techniques to address these vulnerabilities. One of them, quite simply, is that signals from WIN-T Inc. 2 can be reduced by constant movement.

A moving emanating signal is, of course, much more difficult to locate, Weiss explained.

Also, WIN-T developers are making progress with an emerging strategy described as “keep-out-zones,” a method of deliberately emanating electromagnetic signals in the direction of friendly forces and, by design, away from an enemy.

“Some radios broadcast in an omni-directional fashion. The antenna in WIN-T is sophisticated. It has the option to stream a beam and only radiate in a certain direction,” network engineer Paul Bristow of General Dynamics Mission Systems told Scout Warrior.

“Silent Watch” and “receive mode” are other threat-reducing techniques, wherein a radio can temporarily shut off or reduce its signal to avoid detection.

Still another dynamic in this equation is that, while radios emitting signals for communications can be targeted, electronic weapons launching attacks also emit a signal — thus possibly giving away their position.

WIN-T developers also say technical progress is being made with efforts to refine and operationalize emerging “precision, navigation and timing” technologies able to facilitate relevant connectivity in the event that GPS is compromised.

Ultimately, much of the debate hinges upon a key question — whether WIN-T be replaced, cancelled or improved. General Dynamics developers emphasize that WIN-T is constructed with what could be called a new baseline in U.S. military acquisition — “open architecture.” This means that, by using common I.P. protocols and identified, interoperable standards for hardware and software, emerging technologies can much more successfully be integrated with existing systems.

Based upon this premise, new software designed to address new threats, fixes, patches or even new hardware can be implemented in a seamless fashion. This technical apparatus, General Dynamics developers say, positions the WIN-T network such that it can continue to evolve and sustain its functionality despite the continued emergence of new, high-tech threats.

This kind of approach, the developers say, has already enabled designers to massively reduce the hardware footprint of the mobile WIN-T Inc. 2 system — it is now smaller and lighter to the point where a WIN-T equipped Humvee can sling load beneath a CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopter.

O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Old 07-01-2017, 08:39 AM
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7-1-17 by Associated Press


MOSUL, Iraq (AP) -- U.S. Army Col. Pat Work and a small team of about a dozen soldiers drove through western Mosul in two unmarked armored vehicles. Iraq's Prime Minister had just declared the end of the Islamic State group's caliphate the day before, but the fighting still raging on as Iraqi forces prepared for another big push Saturday morning.

The American Colonel had a series of urgent calls to make: to talk face-to-face with generals from the Iraqi Army, the federal police and the Iraqi special forces. While the gains in the Old City are bringing Iraqi troops closer to victory against IS in Mosul, they also mean three branches of the country's security forces are now fighting in closer quarters than ever before. The new battle space and lingering communication shortcomings mean Iraqi ground troops are at increased risk of being hit by non-precision fires like mortars and artillery by their partner Iraqi forces, he explained.

Throughout the course of the day Work shuttled between bases and command centers inside the city meeting with Iraqi commanders deep inside Mosul, underscoring the increasingly prominent U.S. role in the offensive as it enters its final days.

"It's a very violent close fight," said Work, the commander of the 82nd Airborne's 2nd Brigade Combat Team who deployed to Iraq in January. "When the bullets aren't enough the commanders want to turn to high explosives which might be mortars or artillery... so understanding where the other guy is all the time is kinda rule number one, so the lethal effect is directed at the target and not accidentally at another player that's on your team."

The various forces that make up Iraq's military have long struggled with coordination. While the Mosul operation is overseen by a joint operations command and the Prime Minister, forces on the ground maintain independent command structures, standards and cultures. The Mosul fight is the first time all three forces have had to cooperate in an urban environment and throughout the operation the army, federal police and special forces have faced deadly setbacks when they acted independently, allowing IS fighters to concentrate their defenses on a single front.

"We're helping (Iraqi forces) see across the boundaries between their different units... just helping them understand where they are and how rapidly things might be changing." said Work.

One of Work's stops was at a modest house in a residential west Mosul neighborhood. About a dozen U.S. troops and Iraqi soldiers were hunched over computers identifying IS targets just a few hundred meters away ahead of the next day's operation. The presence of U.S. forces at the small patrol base deep inside Mosul is a level of support that had not been authorized when the Mosul fight first began.

Under the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis moved U.S. combat advisers closer to the fight by authorizing U.S. troops to partner with Iraqi forces at the battalion level.

The U.S.-led coalition's fight against IS in Iraq has slowly expanded over the past three years from a campaign of airstrikes carried out by coalition forces who largely stayed within heavily fortified bases to an operation with some 6,000 American troops on the ground, many operating close to frontline fighting. The evolution suggests that despite a large training program designed to generate enough soldiers to retake Mosul, Coalition officials assessed Iraqi forces lacked the tactical skills to conduct the operation without close support.

Between meetings, as Work's vehicle rolled through a traffic circle in western Mosul, he said being on the ground beside his Iraqi counterparts is essential.

"For any commander there is no substitute for seeing it with your own eyes... for talking to the stake holders who are in it making the decisions every day," he said. "ISIS has no boundaries, so our adviser network can't have any boundaries. And so part of it is getting out there daily to see it."

Work's one-on-one meetings inside Mosul come with a huge operational footprint. During his visit Friday a team of dozens of U.S. soldiers - most young men on their first deployment - provided him security and handled logistics. At each patrol base inside Mosul where U.S. troops work with Iraqi forces there can be dozens to over a hundred soldiers deployed to protect a team of just 10 advisers.

With the vast majority of Mosul retaken from IS, soldiers trained by the coalition to fight in combat are now transitioning to act as hold forces to help provide security. Even after the last pockets of the city are retaken, Work said he doesn't expect that will necessarily mean an end to the U.S. role in Mosul.

"Mosul is going to be a challenge, ISIS is going to continue to challenge the hold," using an alternative acronym for the Islamic State group. He said U.S. troops would continue to facilitate coordination and provide advice just as they did during the offensive.

"We will continue to help Iraqi commanders recognize that this is what you fought for."

O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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