WASHINGTON — The Army will pilot a new idea to place coders and software developers at the tactical edge to reprogram electronic warfare and radio frequency systems.
The pilot, dubbed Starblazor, will try to identify gaps in Army capabilities and provide information for its doctrine and policies.
Mainly, Starblazor will help the Army learn what is needed to train the cyber and electronic warfare operators with existing equipment and what these personnel will need for a future fight, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Eric Colon, CEMA technician at Army Cyber Command, told C4ISRNET.
The Starblazor effort will take place this summer during the larger Defender Pacific, a division-sized war game for joint multidomain operations in support of Indo-Pacific Command, which will also test new technologies and concepts.
Recently, the Army created a new military occupational specialty within its cyber branch dedicated to software development. Those specialists sit alongside operators and build tools on the spot to keep up with the dynamic environment of cyberspace.
Now, as the Army is gearing up to field a raft of electronic warfare equipment — including combined cyber and signals intelligence — it needs to be able to rapidly reprogram the systems to exploit new signals it may find over the course of a conflict.
If the Army finds itself in a conflict with a top nation-state, it will likely come across signals it hasn’t seen before. This presents problems for the force because it won’t know how to exploit or defeat those signals until it categorizes them. In the Cold War, this could take years, but now with software-defined systems, new signals can be deployed, detected and tweaked in weeks.
Starblazor is aimed toward the Army’s new 915th Cyber Warfare Battalion, which consists of 12 expeditionary cyber teams to augment brigades with additional cyber and electronic warfare capabilities, which the Army is still experimenting with equipment and staffing.
One intent of the group is to be able to go anywhere, utilize brigade-organic equipment and exploit hard targets by capturing a signal of interest, reverse engineering it and delivering an effect in months rather than years.
Starblazor efforts during Defender Pacific will only look at the Multi-Function Electronic Warfare Air Large platform, first organic brigade electronic attack asset mounted on an MQ-1C Gray Eagle drone. The Army, however, in its most recent budget request zeroed out procurement funding for the system leaving its deployment to units in jeopardy, despite continued research and development funding dedicated to it.
Starblazor will help determine what new code developers need and provide information for capability development for large acquisition programs while they’re still in the research and development phase.
Army coders can help inform the development cycle of these platforms much earlier in the process, officials said. However, they said that significant software changes in a week or two would likely be unrealistic, but some tweaks could be made in that timeframe, which is significantly faster than the traditional acquisition cycle.
Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.