One of the key lessons of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine is the potency of Russia's electronic warfare capabilities, the product of decades of focused investment.
Top US and NATO officials, such as Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the commander of the US Army Europe, have confirmed that Russia used its capabilities to shut down communications in Ukraine.
That's big trouble for all nations, especially advanced ones that depend heavily on sophisticated communications and data networks for command, control, intelligence and logistics.
Last week, US Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work announced the formation of a DoD council — to be co-chaired by Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall and Adm. Sandy Winnefeld, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — to improve US electronic warfare capabilities, which for too long have been considered a supporting technology. Russia, however, views EW as a core capability.
"They believe it is an important part of their offensive and defensive arsenal, and it's going to be on the forefront of any initial guided munitions salvo exchange," Work said. "For relatively small investments, you get an extremely high potential payoff, and our competitors are trying to win in the EW competition. We still have a lead — I think. That lead is diminishing rapidly. I worry about it."
Work, the driving force behind DoD's new offset strategy to find novel leap-ahead approaches to remain ahead of fast-moving competitors, isn't alone. Washington and its allies must sharpen their offensive and defensive EW game, while also preparing to operate successfully should all the systems they depend on be knocked out. In EW, as in cyber, any defense is only as strong as its weakest link. It's time to make all the links in these EW and cyber chains as tough, and resilient, as possible.