Crows ‘ACE’ Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations at Bamboo Eagle

  • Published
  • By Capt. Benjamin Aronson
  • 350th Spectrum Warfare Wing

Across southern California and out into the Pacific Ocean, approximately 3,000 service members across four branches and three countries exercised together in support of Bamboo Eagle, a U.S. Warfare Center led exercise focusing on Agile Combat Employment (ACE) operations.

The 350th Spectrum Warfare Wing provided Electromagnetic Warfare (EW) expertise, including rapidly reprogramming Mission Data Files (MDF) and transmitting them at the speed of relevance to and from the edge under ACE conditions. These conditions provided an environment that was subject to communication degradation, distributed command and control and large geographic separations between units, challenging exercise players.

The 513th Electronic Warfare Squadron served as one of the units providing MDFs to platforms in Bamboo Eagle, focusing on the joint U.S. Air Force and Marine Corps F-35s from Hill AFB, Utah, and from the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 out of Yuma, Arizona.

“We haven’t done an ACE exercise before, only chair flew it, but we have a good understanding how challenging it is on [Navy] ships, whether an aircraft carrier or big deck amphibs,” said U.S. Navy Cmdr. Alexander Sandroni, 513th EWS deputy commander. “We know how much data pipeline we need, can reasonably assume what will be available and we know those two do not match up. We know the challenge.”

The 513th EWS, along with the 36th EWS and 16th EWS, responded to the data submitted by flying units, keying in on unknowns that pose a threat to friendly forces. This data changed at the direction of the White Cell to provide challenges to warfighters and exercise rapid reprogramming efforts by the wing.

“The purpose of the White Cell was to drive a more complex scenario for WARM [wartime reserve modes] and test the command and control of MDFs,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Philip Liotta, 350th Spectrum Warfare Wing, A3 chief of current operations. “We worked as a simulated Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations Cell (EMSOC) at the AOC to see what the units are seeing via their misreps, tacreps and chatrooms, and used that to drive decision making that can impact MDFs.”

To receive, coordinate and track the requests for updated MDFs, the 39th EWS ran the EW Help Desk from the EMSOC, serving as an operational center for the wing’s units and working co-located with the White Cell.

While real-world exercising was occurring, a simulated exercise was being mirrored virtually, allowing the White Cell to generate adversarial threats that had consequences for friendly forces. This virtual process started with presenting forces with unknowns to initiate reprograming efforts, and led to degradation of forces and capabilities if updated MDFs were not successfully received and loaded onto platforms.

“You have to do these things virtually because it is very hard to demonstrate at the scale that could occur,” said Liotta. “Providing a realistic training environment is how we build the best fighting force in the world. Being able to train in this environment is massively important and it helps identify where we can improve.”

Bamboo Eagle provided joint and coalition warfighters the opportunity to train like they fight, through a realistic EMS environment scenario, educating members on the impact of effective EW capabilities on both friendly and adversarial forces.

The conclusion of the exercise also allowed Crows to debrief units to further educate them on not only the EW capabilities the wing brings to the fight, but how effective Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations increases survivability and lethality of forces.

“This is the thing we live and breathe every day,” said Sandroni. “The guys out there have to worry about a huge list of other items before they get to thinking about rapid reprogramming. I think the most valuable things we can do is go out there and show them that we understand the environment that they are flying in and use our capabilities to make them more mission effective.”