U.S. Army unprepared to deal with Russia in Europe

Great article by Wesley Morgan for Politico.com. All countries should make regular and honest analyses of their operational abilities like the one by the 173rd Airborne Brigade, but unfortunately this kind of candor is rare. Too many decision makers get amazed by the technologically impressive possibilities of new equipment, and under the constraints of tight budgets it is inconvenient to remind oneself that reliability requires multiple layers of redundant systems.

This piece caught my eye:

The common thread running through the paper is the challenge posed by Russia’s jammers and other electronic warfare tools.

An enemy equipped with these “could effectively neutralize a GPS system from 50 miles away using one-fifth the power of a tactical radio,” the report estimates, so “we should assume that GPS will be either unavailable or unreliable for the duration of the conflict if the [brigade] faces a near-peer threat or sophisticated non-state actors.”

Here, too, some of the solutions are low-tech. High-frequency or HF radios are more difficult for enemy electronic warfare specialists to pinpoint and jam than the satellite radios that have become the norm for U.S. units over the past 15 years. HF radio equipment and training have fallen by the wayside in the American military during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, but not in some allied militaries.

The shortfalls have required the 173rd to call on allies from Latvia to help it learn how to communicate in the face of Russian jamming — a stark indicator of how badly knowledge of a key communication method has degraded in the American force.

The fragility of GPS and satellite communication is uncanny, considering how dependent societies are on these technologies.

Leave a Reply