June 01, 2020
The commander of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, Colonel Scott Woodward, recently gave an interesting look into one of the many challenges faced by modern ground forces. This came in the form of a simple digital image he posted to Twitter on 7 May 2020. The annotated satellite image, seen here, shows a battalion-sized force during an exercise at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin in California. The 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment is dedicated to the role of playing Opposing Forces (OPFOR) at the NTC and is equipped specifically for the role of playing the “bad guys”. As such their equipment, vehicles and other systems have the appearance and performance of possible opponents US forces might face.
What makes this satellite image so interesting is it shows the electronic emissions signature of the unit and its support trains. In doing so it perfectly illustrates the threat of electronic warfare and electronic support measures on today’s battlefield. Warfare continually evolves and militaries either keep up, or fall behind to their detriment. As the US military refocuses on possible conflicts with peer level adversaries, such as Russia and China, understanding Electronic Warfare, and the threat it poses, becomes critical.
The unit in the satellite image thought the natural cover of their location, combined with the darkness of night had sufficiently concealed their positions. They assumed incorrectly and were located by electronic warfare systems at a distance of some 7.5 miles (12 km). Colonel Woodward’s Tweet stated, “These were taken at the National Training Center, in California. Concealment will help you stay alive a little longer in a close fight. What does your EW footprint look like is the larger question. If I can see you like this, it doesn’t matter how much camo you have.” Russia has shown the very real threat of an enemy monitoring troop movements via electronic emissions in both Ukraine and Syria.
For a more detailed look into this subject read Joseph Trevithick’s article titled “This is what ground forces look like to an Electronic Warfare System and why it’s a big deal” here.