In the aftermath of the March to Baghdad in 2003, the U.S. military found itself all but helpless in the face of a new, simple asymmetric threat, the Improvised Explosive Device (IED). Displaying the classic offensive-defense interaction, improvements in defensive measures rapidly engendered changes in the threat. The radio-controlled IED, using devices as simple as a garage door opener or cell phone, rapidly became the Iraqi insurgents’ weapon of choice.
As radio-controlled IEDs became prevalent in 2003-04 the requirement arose for a protection system. In these early days the Navy, because of its extensive experience in electronic combat, was given the single service manager mission to insure rapid acquisition and proper compatibility of systems provided to ground forces. Even with the appointment of a single service manager, each service began development on service-specific systems. The Navy system was the Joint Counter Radio-Controlled Improvised Explosive Device Electronic Warfare (JCREW). A series of product improvements resulted in the JCREW 3.1, a dismounted device and the 3.2, a mounted device. A 3.3 version (recently relabeled as the I1B1) is being developed to work in mounted, dismounted, and fixed-installation roles, using a common open architecture. In this same period, the Army developed the mounted Duke system, the Marines the Chameleon and Hunter mounted systems and Special Operations Command its own mounted and dismounted equipment. The result of all these efforts were a lot of saved lives.
As Operation Iraqi Freedom wound down and defense spending declined, there emerged questions as to the appropriate strategy for maintaining the hard-won U.S. advantages in IED jamming and which service should be given responsibility for this area. In November 2013, the Navy and Army signed a Memorandum of Understanding which clarified roles and responsibilities, and transferred most authorities to the Army. The Army’s executive office for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors serves as the Executive Agent and Single Manager. Its challenge will be how and whether to bring everyone under one architecture or let each service head its own direction with oversight by the Army. An additional challenge is the lack of a defined budget or spending plan across the services going forward.
At present, there is no unifying strategy or architecture for managing the IED jamming effort. The Army’s plan is to upgrade its Duke mounted systems while the Navy continues to develop JCREW I1B1 through Naval Sea System Command’s PMS 408. The Marine Corps reportedly wants to utilize the Navy’s JCREW I1B1 fixed, mounted and dismounted systems and has little interest in buying the Army’s legacy system. In the dismounted role, both the Army and Marine Corps have been using another system called Thor produced by the Navy. SOCOM, long an innovator in this area, is utilizing its own Special Operations Forces-specific mounted and dismounted systems. It currently is completing development and has begun procurement of a new dismounted system and will shortly conduct operational testing on a new mounted jammer.
Without a defined budget and a clear path forward, both the technology for jamming radio-controlled IEDs and the industrial base that can support it could easily atrophy. Since the Army is the main user and the Executive Agent, under intensifying budget pressures the industrial base could shrink down to one system and one supplier. Alternatively, there could be multiple systems developed and/or acquired by individual services with little coherence and extra costs. Or, someone, perhaps the Army but probably it will have to be the Office of the Secretary of Defense, will exercise some adult supervision. This would result in a directed effort to develop an architecture for the next-generation IED jammer that would support the deployment of new and more advanced modules that will be responsive to future threats.
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