Iraq Airwaves: Traffic Jam

Every once in a while around Baghdad, American bomb squads stop what they're doing, and retire to their bunks. The reason why: "Compass Call," a modified C-130 turboprop plane which serves as the "only US wide-area offensive information warfare platform," according to GlobalSecurity.org. The Compass Call and the Navy's EA-6B Prowler can jam radio and cell phone traffic for miles around, disrupting insurgent communications. But the aircraft also can disrupt the jammers that bomb squads use to stop improvised explosives, Aviation Week notes. There's even a fear that all those crossed signals could accidentally detonate guerilla bombs.jammin_dudes.jpg

"We have a smart system that jams IEDs [improvised explosive devices] in Iraq, that found itself fighting with another smart electronic system," Lt. Gen. Walter Buchanan, chief of the 9th Air Force and Central Command Air Forces, says. "They got locked on [to each other] because of the lack of coordination..."Another concern is accidentally triggering IEDs with jamming signals. "We deconflict our jamming activities when we know we have people near IEDs... so that we don't unintentionally set them off," he says.The problems also extend to surveillance and communications systems. "When you take a look at data links and the number of jammers in place and all the radios we have out there, [deconflicting] becomes a very difficult problem," Buchanan says.Because all of the communication systems are in similar bands and create interference, a Predator UAV at Balad, the main U.S. air base in Iraq, is in danger of losing its ground control link once it is 35 mi. from base, he says. In the less congested airways of Afghanistan, that range is 120 mi.
"The problem is bad enough that Central Command is putting more urgency into developing an EW [Electronic Warfare] Coordination Cell," the magazine observes. "The task is critical because new users of the electromagnetic spectrum come into theater almost daily."Like the next wave of Prowler planes, for example. They'll come equipped with an ALQ-218 electronic attack system designed to "turn those enemy wireless communications into a weapon against the insurgents who use them," Aviation Week says.
Before the end of the decade, information warfare specialists are expected to use these and other electronic warfare aircraft, both manned and unmanned, to find enemy communications networks and plot with precision their location on the ground. Those networks would then be seeded with false information as well as viruses, worms, zombies, Trojan Horses and other computer attack tools that would leave them communicating with U.S. analysts as often as they do with other insurgents.
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