2014-11-06 Training for Electronic Warfare: Shaping a Combined Arms Approach
By Ed Timperlake and Robbin Laird
During our visit to Fallon, we had a chance to discuss the role of Airborne Electronic Attack with CDR Mike “Beaker” Miller, Naval Strike and Warfare Center, Airborne Electronic Weapons School (HAVOC).
CDR Miller has an extensive background in electronic warfare and has worked with the US Air Force, US Army, USMC as well with USN forces in providing electronic warfare support.
He was the commander of the first carrier-based EA-18G Growler squadron and has done two deployments on Growlers operating in the Med, the Arabian Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Western Pacific .
And as will become clear in the interview his time working with the US Army on the ground and in air in both Iraq and Afghanistan was an important part of his combat learning process as well in understanding the nature of fighting electronic warfare with a reactive enemy.
Question: What is the key function of electronic warfare capability?
It really should be understood as spectrum warfare, or what the Navy is labeling as Electronic Maneuver Warfare (EMW).
EMW is essentially all about creating warfighting advantages in and through the electromagnetic spectrum by disrupting the adversary’s kill chain while optimizing our own.
The goal of Blue Electronic Warfare is to create tactical advantage for Blue forces and Blue kill chains by delaying, degrading, denying, or deceiving the Red kill chain.
The target for Blue EW is the Red kill chain – always has been.
In the real world, every kill chain is different, even those with similar equipment, doctrine, and training, which is why EW mission success is heavily dependent upon mission planning.
Upon identification/nomination of the applicable Red kill chain, Growler aviators, intelligence officers, and cryptologists perform EW targeteering to identify vulnerabilities in that kill chain – vulnerabilities to screening, saturation, deception, stimulation, or destruction.
We then do weapon-to-target pairing, matching the best EW weapon available against each of those high payoff vulnerabilities.
Those weapons can be jammers, receivers (for warning/localization/avoidance), anti-radiation missiles, decoys, or other tools in the EW/SEAD toolbox.
Using AEA-specific weaponeering tools, we then determine the weapon delivery parameters required to achieve the desired effects for each of those weapons.
These weapon (and sometimes sensor) employment parameters drive Growler positioning and maneuvers in the battlespace.
We then employ EA-18G survivability tactics, techniques, and procedures to achieve the Growler combat survivability required to achieve valid EW employment parameters with a high degree of probability.
Question: This means that the role of the squadron in doing non-kinetic strike is significant?
That is true, because in effect no one else is trained and experienced to perform the EW targeteering function in the Navy.
At the AEA Weapons School here at NSAWC, we run a Growler Intelligence Officer course in parallel with our Growler Tactics Instructor (aircrew) course to provide the Fleet with a select group of Naval Intelligence Officers that have a graduate-level understanding of tactical non-kinetic mission planning and employment.
We absolutely need these individuals to help tighten the bonds between EA-18G operators and the Navy’s Information Dominance Corps.
I would add that EW is an undervalued capability until you actually fight.
Nobody really cares about electronic warfare until the shooting starts; and then you cannot get enough of it.
Question: How important was your time working with the US Army?
It was very significant.
We flew carrier planes – the Prowler – out of a former Soviet base, that was an Army base, as part of an Air Force Air Expeditionary Wing in Afghanistan (one of the most land-locked places on earth) in support of the ground scheme of maneuver.
We had not really focused on that mission before Operations ENDURING FREEDOM and IRAQI FREEDOM, but the red side was leveraging commercial technology to create an asymmetric advantage against the ground forces.
We were tasked to disrupt and deny those advantages, by providing supporting non-kinetic fires to protected entities (mounted and dismounted troops).
Following my deployments with the Navy to Afghanistan, I had the opportunity to embed directly with the Army as a Brigade EWO with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Air Assault Division in Iraq.
That experience helped me understand the synchronization and employment of non-kinetic fires from the supported commander’s perspective.
In effect, our effort became part of a broadened notion of close air support (CAS) or “fires.”
If one thinks of what we have done as part of refined CAS so to speak one can understand better what we were about.
The Army, after experiencing what we could do to support the ground scheme of maneuver began to reconsider investments in this area.
And for future operations in a permissive environment, both the Army and the Marines are building out vehicle based and UAV based systems to provide the non-kinetic fires capabilities that Prowlers, Growlers, Compass Call, and other EW platforms supported them with in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Question: You did this in communication with a ground based JTAC.
But could we not do this from the air in support of an ally without one, if we are looking to deliver a broad based attack such against ISIL?
I would prefer to not to it that way although it could be done.
By having someone on the ground, you can get a better outcome.
It enhances your ability to provide the effect which most closely meets the supported ground commander’s intent.
It is important to de-conflict non-kinetic first in the same manner as kinetic fires.
The doctrinal definition of CAS is integration of fires when in close proximity to friendlies which means that detailed integration is required for the proper effect.
Question: How do you view the Growler in the scheme of joint EW or what one might call Tron Warfare?
It provides an important capability.
I take a combined arms approach to capabilities in this area.
By having a variety of capabilities you take away the red side’s ability to achieve mission success by targeting a single platform type or blue capability.
History indicates that “silver bullet” solutions or gameplans devised in peacetime often do not have the adaptability, resiliency, or redundancy required to be successful in combat.
For example: mobile targets present a major challenge for EW and the ability to disrupt and exploit the red kill chain.
And target mobility includes their agility in the spectrum, not just the physical location of the threat sensor, weapon, or network.
Tactics and training predicated on “exquisite” knowledge of enemy locations, signatures, and reactions leave us vulnerable to surprise in the fog and friction that will likely dominate the opening hours of the next fight.
We operate our Growlers on a mission expecting to need to shift among various types of targets and to calibrate our weapon against a diversity of targets.
We train our Growler Tactics Instructors “how” to think tactically and not just “what” to think tactically.
The tactics of today will someday be countered – not if, but when.
The human element of warfare, and electronic warfare is warfare, is as important as it has ever been.
The men and women that employ the amazing capabilities of the EA-18G remain our “asymmetric advantage” in today’s and tomorrow’s fight.
Question: So what you are saying is that the blue side needs enough diversity of toolsets that the enemy cannot overly commit to one identified strength or vulnerability for that matter?
That is correct.
Commander Miller’s Biography
Commander Miller grew up overseas and graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1994.
He earned his Wings of Gold as a Naval Flight Officer in March 1996 and was selected to fly the EA-6B Prowler.
Commander Miller’s operational assignments include the “Gauntlets” of VAQ-136 deploying aboard USS Independence (CV 62) and USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63), Carrier Air Wing NINE (CVW-9) staff deploying aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), and the “Garudas” of VAQ-134 deploying twice to Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.
Commander Miller also deployed to Baghdad, Iraq as the Electronic Warfare Officer for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) (the “Rakkasans”) as an element of Joint CREW Composite Squadron ONE (JCCS-1).
He reported to the “Shadowhawks” of VAQ-141 in May 2010 as Executive Officer following transition training in the EA-18G, deploying in May 2011 aboard USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) for the first carrier deployment of the Growler. Commander Miller took command of VAQ-141 in July 2011.
He led VAQ-141 through the first two carrier deployments of the EA-18G Growler, operating in 2nd, 6th, 5th, and 7th Fleets as a component of Carrier Air Wing EIGHT (CVW-8) and Carrier Air Wing FIVE (CVW-5). Commander Miller relinquished command in February 2013.
Ashore, Commander Miller instructed at VAQ-129, the EA-6B Fleet Replacement Squadron and pursued post-graduate education at the USAF Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell AFB, AL. He reported to the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center, Fallon, NV in March 2013.
Commander Miller’s personal decorations include seven Air Medals (Strike/Flight) and Commendation Medals from the Navy, Army and Air Force.
He’s been NATOPS-qualified in the EA-6B, S-3B and EA-18G, accumulating 3,500 flight hours, 217 operational missions, and 800 carrier arrested landings.
Also see the following:
A final issue, which we discussed with a Prowler pilot in the room, was the whole challenge of transitioning the Prowler experience into the UAV squadron and the F-35B squadron.
Clearly with the migration of electronic warfare to what Ed Timperlake has called “Tron Warfare” change is under way.
The USMC clearly understands this.
As Col. Orr, then the CO of VMX-22 put it in a presentation to the Air Force Association Mitchell Aerospace Institute:
Col. Orr also discussed the USMC effort to merge the complementary capabilities of two traditionally separate, very separate communities.
We have signals intelligence professionals, primarily ground-based radio battalions who report back up through Title 50 authorities.
And then we have a separate group that does electronic warfare, notably the EA-6B Prowler conducting tactical electronic warfare.
Those two communities traditionally haven’t really talked much.
We are bringing them together in the same facility called the Cyber/Electronic Warfare Coordination Cell (CEWCC).
That Cyber/Electronic Warfare Coordination Cell provides the MAGTF commander the ability to deconflict and conduct operations within the electromagnetic spectrum at a tactical level.
At a tactical level, the CEWCC allows us to be able to combine cyber and electronic warfare effects and have the commander make decisions ranging from listening to deception to jamming.
Prowler experience as well as infrastructure needs to be folded into the way ahead, a subject, which we hope to pursue in the near future.
As Lieutenant Colonel Faught put it: “We need to find ways to exploit the analytical infrastructure which has supported Prowler and take that forward into the 21st century approaches we are now shaping.”
Earlier pieces from our visit to Fallon: