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Jammers Causing Interference in Iraq
Warlock radio frequency jammers in use in Iraq interfere with Army radio communications and block controls needed to operate unmanned aerial vehicles, according to a study of the service's initial effort to transform divisions into “modular” brigades.
The commanding general of the Combined Arms Center asked the Center for Army Lessons Learned to take on the study, “Modular Force Insights Memorandum,” which was completed in March but not publicly released. The results were culled from post-deployment interviews of members of the 3rd Infantry Division after their return from Iraq.
The 3rd ID was the first division to undertake the modular redesign. It was the first to partially transform and then see combat, according to the executive summary of the report, stamped “for official use only.”
The report brought in at least 36 suggestions for doctrine, organization, training, material, leadership, personnel, and facilities, as well as 11 “emerging insights,” according to the executive summary.
Among the key recommendations of the report is the suggestion that the Army address problems with Warlock jammers, which are supposed to thwart the electronic signals used to trigger improvised explosive devices.
During convoy operations, soldiers had to stop using the jammers if they wanted to use their Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio Systems. “Likewise, distant stations were not able to communicate with convoys utilizing Warlock,” the report says. “This situation was a common and significant problem for 3ID.”
In addition to interfering with radio transmissions, the Warlock also blocked the control link between the Raven unmanned aerial system and aviation systems.
“With the loss of the Raven control link, the ground controller would lose control and the aircraft would re-acquire the satellite and return to its launch point,” the study says.
Helicopters that were operating in the same footprint as Warlock also were affected.
While pilots were able to continue to use SINCGARS radios to communicate with ground stations and other Army aircraft, communications with the Air Force broke down until helicopters moved away from the Warlock transmission area.
As a result, the study recommends that the Army Signal School at Ft. Gordon, GA, revise doctrine, tactics, techniques and procedures for using jammers. The program manager for Warlock should look at ways to change the jammers themselves, and look at other ways to use frequencies so the jammers do not conflict with other command and control systems, the study says. In addition to Raven's difficulties with jammers, the 3rd ID experienced problems in the air. The risk of a mid-air collision with a Raven aircraft was the chief concern for the division's aviators, the study says.
The concern was attributed to many factors. Because it is so small and light, the Raven is “extremely susceptible to altitude variations in flight due to wind gusts, up-drafts, etc., despite the best efforts of the controller,” the report says. Also, Ravens are so small that soldiers in manned aircraft can't easily see them. Plus, because there is no way to electronically confirm a Raven's location from an Army cockpit, “Army aviation assets are reluctant to share airspace with the Raven,” the report states.
The division also raises issues concerning Raven training.
“Based upon experience in [Operation Iraqi Freedom], Army Aviation assets remain concerned that Raven operators are not always clearing airspace requests through the brigade” before a Raven is launched, the report says. That helps drive a perception among aviators that procedures are not always heeded before a Raven is launched.
As a result, the study recommends that the Army Aviation Center and Army Air Defense Artillery Center conduct an “end-to-end” review of small UAS operations. Also, the study calls for procedures covering small unmanned aerial systems to be added to current doctrine and recommends wide dissemination of revised tactics.
Another key issue outlined in the report is the training for the brigade combat team's fire support system. Commanders of the division's fires battalions said that units were not receiving the required technical training and certification standards, according to the report.
“This seems to be a symptom of either of two causes: lack of time to fully train soldiers and system processes during a full [Army Force Generation] cycle; or that maneuver battalion commanders and staffs do not possess the expertise, background, or time to accomplish training required to maintain training standards,” the study says.
Accordingly, the lessons-learned report recommends further study of the underlying causes of the training gap. It also says the service should close observe a number of brigade combat teams throughout a full ARFORGEN cycle to evaluate battalion commanders' ability to provide the right kind of training, the study says.