It's 2:15 a.m. on a moonless night deep inside enemy held territory as U.S. Special Operations Navy SEALs maneuver their Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs) slowly north on a feeder tributary toward their objective area. Two American doctors and a South African aid worker cling to hope after three days of torture and interrogation in one of the most inhospitable locales on earth and hope is wearing thin. The captives are unaware that over 200 miles away an entire special operations task force of more than 100 special operators is conducting full spectrum intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) in an effort to pinpoint their location. The team continues to gather information while en route to the jungle purgatory. Overhead, state of the art systems speed real-time information to the Theater Special Operations Command (TSOC) while close air support assets loiter just beyond visual and audible range.
Suddenly, the jungle floor erupts with radio chatter and cell phone ringtones as the insurgent infrastructure sparks to life. An enemy visual observer has spotted the RHIBs and alerts the entire organization via a sophisticated communications network. Utilizing advanced geo-location equipment to find the RHIBs and jammers to take out their communications and GPS systems, the bad guys realize their only hope this night is to somehow delay the approaching force long enough to slip away under the cover of darkness.
The mission has suddenly transformed into a non-kinetic battle for information superiority in the electromagnetic spectrum. The force that can control this critical battle space will have the advantage. This is Emerald Warrior 13 (EW13), where the best operators in the world train for a global fight.
The U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) is the executive agent for the planning and execution of Emerald Warrior. This annual event provides U.S. special operations forces (SOF), conventional and coalition forces, interagency teams, and non-government organization participants realistic combat training in an irregular warfare scenario like the one described above. This year, the event occurred from April 22 to May 3 and covered extensive areas of the southeast United States.
When U.S. forces deploy to a training range for an exercise, the hostile environments they would normally face in real-world operations are already there; mountains, rivers, jungles, deserts, etc. However, one thing our forces face every day when operating in enemy territory, even relatively poor third world countries, is a fairly sophisticated electromagnetic environment built by bad actors taking advantage of today's dynamic technology market.
In the case of Emerald Warrior, the sophisticated enemy communications network was created and operated by members of U.S. Strategic Command's Joint Electronic Warfare Center's (JEWC) Electromagnetic Opposing Force (EM OPFOR). The JEWC EM OPFOR provided a team that supported exercise activities in Stennis, Miss., Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. and Apalachicola, Fla. For EW 13, the team established a fully functional cellular telephone network to include radio towers, switching stations and generated thousands of cellular calls. In addition, they operated an "adversary radio network" using hand held radios and role players. In fact, JEWC EM OPFOR has been an integral part of the Emerald Warrior team for the last four years.
Mr. Byron Allen, OPFOR lead coordinator for Emerald Warrior expressed, "JEWC's support for SOCOM's tier 1/level 1 Emerald Warrior exercise greatly enhanced the most realistic electronic warfare simulation to date. The unique capabilities of JEWC incorporated into the complex scenarios of EW '13 provided the warfighter the best, most current training of any DoD exercise".
The communication network, which included hand held radios, a cellular telephone network, GPS locaters, and radio frequency (RF) spectrum analyzers is a one of kind capability that the JEWC EMOPFOR Team provides for numerous exercises, training venues and Joint Concept Development tests each year. While it may sound like a sophisticated game of cat and mouse, the stakes are high when lives are on the line. This is what makes these training exercises so important. Often times, training venues serve as dress rehearsals for real world operations and it is imperative that the environments are as realistic as possible.
Drew Fier, the EM OPFOR government lead for Emerald Warrior 13 said, "It's extremely satisfying to be a member of the electronic warfare community when you are able to witness the seamless integration of EW and ISR platforms over an objective area. Those capabilities are force multipliers".
The JEWC EM OPFOR is a training lynchpin that provides an adversary electromagnetic environment across all domains (land, sea, air, space, cyberspace). They support exercises spanning the globe, providing the critical and tangible training capacity that fills the DoD-wide gap for joint electromagnetic spectrum operations. EM OPFOR is the network; the physical manifestation of the enemy with advanced wireless technology systems and expertise. Operating state of the art wireless communications and network technologies including direction finding and geo-location systems; push-to-talk radios; and satellite, cellular and cyber devices, this unique STRATCOM capability provides the full-spectrum, joint, live-virtual-constructive EM activities that enable the Joint Warfighter to TRAIN LIKE THEY FIGHT!