In a high-end fight, the U.S. might opt out of using high-tech gear if a partner's capability is not on the same level, according to the DoD's deputy director of electronic warfare.
"If our doctrine evolved and [partners'] did not, most likely in a high-end fight we would chose to not use many of our high-end capabilities because it would interfere too much with their capabilities," William Conley said during a presentation at the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies on June 22.
Conley acknowledged that over the last decade, NATO has substantially revolutionized its doctrine in this space. But given that the U.S. rarely fights alone, it's capabilities have to be compatible or at least shareable in some way, shape or form with allies, "such that they don't turn around and go 'what's that,' assume it was an adversary system … and turn around and begin trying to deny us."
If the spectrum is not managed properly, friendly systems can interfere with each other and backfire, jamming friendly communications. During the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, electromagnetic countermeasures were used to detect and defeat improvised explosive devices. But despite the success of these countermeasures, they prevented friendly forces from communicating because they jammed everything as opposed to targeting a specific frequency within the spectrum.
"We have to balance what is the necessary or needed capability and what is the security risk of what we are able to go do," Conley told reporters following his presentation. "There are a lot of lessons learned about how to fight as a coalition force over the last 15 years that I think are very important."
He added that there are still some lessons left to learn — indicating that the situation in and of itself is a limitation in terms of what can be done today, but he said the U.S. and coalition forces have the opportunity to improve.
The Army has identified gaps in electronic warfare in the European theater, as compared to those in Russia’s arsenal and used to great effect in Ukraine. The Army’s Rapid Capabilities Office has deliveredits near-term EW solution to Europe and is awaiting feedback.
Conley said one of the steps the U.S. is taking to make sure it is in lockstep with allies invovles ensuring the DoD’s recently published EW strategywas shareable and releasable to foreign partners.
Additionally, he noted there has to be greater trust, meaning there has to be a greater sharing of capabilities. Conley offered that the Red Flag model — the Air Force’s premier aerial combat exercise — which presents a venue for nations to bring their platforms and fight as a coalition force, is a step in the right direction.
Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.