April 18th, 2008 02:53 EST
AFCYBER works to define scope of new 450th Electronic Warfare Wing
SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Ray guns and light sabers may be weapons of science fiction, but using energy as a warfighting tool is one area that members of the Air Force Cyber Command`s 450th Electronic Warfare Wing will be charged with exploring.
While details of the wing`s composition, mission and manning are still being developed as AFCYBER prepares to become operational by Oct. 1, it`s clear that the Air Force plans to kick it up a notch when it comes to dominance in the electromagnetic spectrum.
"We`re going to stop yielding the battlefield to these people who can set off explosives with a cell phone or who can use radar, radio waves, or other forms of energy to disrupt our mission or hurt our people," said Lt. Col. Tim Sands, AFCYBER Transition Team Chief with the 53rd Electronic Warfare Group at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
Since the Air Force added cyberspace as a warfighting domain and was required to redefine airpower to include the use of electronics and the electromagnetic spectrum, Colonel Sands and his team have been working to identify resources and define the scope of their mission.
"What`s happened in warfare is that it used to cost a lot to disable, destroy or degrade capabilities. You can think of it as needing the missile system, the aircraft, or the actual bomb being dropped to dominate the enemy. So, traditionally, our mission as electronic warfare officers has focused on radar jamming, deception, coding new frequencies and such, and mostly on airborne platforms such at the B-52, F-15 and B-1.
"Now we`ve been asked to look at expanding our capabilities and one of these areas is through the use of directed energy such as lasers or microwaves or high powered electromagnetic pulses, for example. It still generates an effect, but not in the traditional sense that we must actually drop a munition on our target. Just what will be the scope of operations in this venue is an area that will require intense research and coordination to make sure our commanders have the tools they need both offensively and defensively.
But warfare in the electromagnetic spectrum is more than the use of directed energy. There are visible and non-visible aspects of the spectrum to include infrared, ultra violet, gamma rays, x-rays and so forth, and those are divided even further into electric and magnetic fields.
Determining the capabilities required to achieve a particular effect in support of an overall campaign depends on what portion of cyberspace is contested. Perhaps it would be necessary to use conventional attack methods along with electronic warfare capabilities. That`s why another job for leadership is to develop the right type of warfighter for this domain.
Lt. Col. Michael Pandolfo, 53rd EWG Deputy Commander for Ops, said what they need to do is build on the skill sets the officers and enlisted members already have.
"The last thing we want to do is create a new tribe or new generation of experts who are only concerned about this one area of warfighting. We`ve got to integrate these folks in and through other areas of our Air Force missions. How to do this and what will it look like is something that`s being vigorously discussed. What we do know is that we`ve begun cyber-specific training for our aircrews so they have a better perspective of where we`re at and where we`re headed. But, there is still much work to do."
Another electronic warfare officer of 23 years who`s been leading the charge at the air staff level is Col. Bob Schwarze, chief of EW and Cyber Requirements at the Pentagon. He said the creation of this new EW wing will consolidate what has been scattered throughout various commands in the past.
"Now what we`re doing is looking at our mission and determining the resources we need to accomplish it and do it in a way where we have a clear chain of command. That`s why you`ll see some intelligence capabilities, some space-related assets, and perhaps some electronic maintenance folks who work with some of our EW airborne platforms and such. Bringing us all together this way will help us manage the resources and the people more effectively, which is one reason why AFCYBER is standing up as a separate command."
During this transition period, the leadership emphasized that current electronic warfare capabilities won`t be affected negatively and that their missions will proceed as normal. This is a good thing because electronic warfare has historically been shown to be critical in preventing the enemy from communicating and with providing tactical intelligence. Winston Churchill described the fighting during WWII as the "battle of the beams," and with today`s expanded technology and ease with which its acquired, it`s even more important for the 450th EWW to ensure commanders have the tools needed to control and shape the battlefield.