Information Warfare: November 12, 2000


After uneven results in the Kosovo War, the Air Force and Navy are studying new ways to conduct information warfare and psychological warfare. The EC-130E Commando Solo aircraft (designed to transmit radio and television programming that could be received by the enemy population) did not work well. The radio broadcasts were moderately effective in reaching the Serbs, although it was doubtful if many were influenced by it. The television broadcasts were not effective due to mountains and other transmission problems (which made the picture too poor in quality to attract an audience), and few seem to have cared what was on the broadcasts. There are doubts that propaganda could be effective against a fiercely nationalistic people who have been fed controlled news for decades. The EC-130H Compass Call aircraft (designed to eavesdrop on enemy communications) worked well, being able to tap into the Serbian air defense network. The aircraft were able to plant false messages and cause false targets to be displayed to the Serbs. The Air Force is convinced that this kind of information warfare could ultimately become decisive, as any nation that has and can use such a capability could completely disrupt enemy operations. In theory, such methods could someday steer enemy aircraft into crashes or trick an enemy into firing on his own aircraft. The Air Force is extremely reluctant to even discuss such things, but is known to be seeking expanded capabilities. The problem is that electronic warfare must be conducted by large aircraft, which are inevitably slow and vulnerable. Unless these aircraft can get close to their targets, they cannot effectively operate. New air defenses using Russian S300 and S400 missiles will be able to drive electronic warfare and even AWACS planes a hundred miles or more back from their current operating positions. One solution may be to use a smaller unmanned aerial vehicle as a relay plane directly over the target. Such an aircraft could detect faint signals and relay them to the manned aircraft hundreds of miles away. It could also serve to transmit low-power signals directly into enemy communications grids by operating very close to them.--Stephen V Cole 


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