Army can now jam IEDs without disrupting communications

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- With the help of the Navy, the Army is now able to operate improvised explosive device (IED) jammers in Iraq without disrupting its communications equipment, according to a senior Army officer.

IED jammers, such as the Counter Radio-Controlled Improvised Explosive Device Electronic Warfare systems, can cause the loss of all communications from co-located or nearby tactical radio systems, Naval Sea Systems Command said. The radio systems also can render the jammers ineffective.

Until recently, soldiers in Iraq were turning off the jammers to communicate, said Gen. William Wallace, head of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command. But on his recent trip to the Middle East, Wallace heard no complaints about IED jammers, he said.

With coordination from the Defense Department’s Joint IED Defeat Organization, the Navy placed electronic warfare specialists in every Army battalion that needed assistance, Wallace told reporters March 8 at the Association of the U.S. Army Winter Conference here. “For the present, it has certainly solved the problem,” he said.

The Navy experts taught Army soldiers how to remove conflicts from the frequency spectrum so that IED jammers and communications equipment can be used simultaneously in the same environment, Wallace said.

IEDs remain the single greatest cause of casualties to U.S. forces in Iraq. DOD has asked for $4 billion in funding in its fiscal 2008 budget and $2.4 billion in its fiscal 2007 supplemental budget to counter the devices.

The Army is also ramping up its electronic warfare training, a specialty of the Navy, Wallace said. “We recognize that electronic warfare is not going away and the frequency spectrum is not getting less crowded in the future,” he said.

Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard Cody recently initiated e-warfare training courses at Fort Sill, Okla., and Fort Huachuca, Ariz., at the tactical and strategic levels, respectively.

The Army plans to make e-warfare a core competency, meaning every soldier will receive some training. Also, the service could evolve the e-warfare specialty to become a separate career field, Wallace said.

The Army will base its training approach partly on the Navy model and plans to replace Navy e-warfare specialists in Iraq with Army employees by March 2008, according to the Armed Forces Press Service.

Meanwhile, the IED threat is changing to adapt to the U.S. military’s countermeasures. Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently said that new IED trigger devices in Iraq, supplied by Iran, use infrared driven trigger devices, rather than radio frequency-based triggers.

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