November 02, 2020

Vice Chief Wilson: Long-Awaited Spectrum Warfare Wing Coming to ACC

A spectrum warfare wing will stand up under Air Combat Command in the near future, Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen W. “Seve” Wilson said during an AFA live-streaming event Oct. 30. The new organization closely follows the Oct. 28 release of a new Defense-wide electromagnetic spectrum strategy that may see the creation of a combatant command to oversee the domain.

“I’m a zealot on spectrum superiority,” Wilson said during an AFA “Airmen in the Fight” program. Wilson said he was “really glad” to see the new strategy roll out, after USAF did several “deep dives” on the subject in the last few years.

“If we don’t dominate the spectrum, we will lose, across all the domains,” Wilson said.

He acknowledged that electronic warfare skills in the Air Force “atrophied” during the years when its primary responsibility was prosecuting the fight against violent extremism.

“It’s something we used to do really good as an Air Force,” but EMS warfare received “short shrift” during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

ACC boss Gen. Mark D. Kelly “will have a spectrum warfare wing standing up … with the right talent to be able to pull all the resources in and get after the electromagnetic spectrum and dominate” across it, Wilson said.

The new wing will fall under the recently-minted 16th Air Force, USAF’s component to U.S. Cyber Command, which rolls up electronic attack and electronic warfare with cyber and information warfare, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.

Kelly, at an AFA Mitchell Institute event in February, said that a spectrum dominance wing was being readied and would soon be stood up.

The new DOD strategy will expand spectrum warfare beyond traditional jamming and psychological operations activity with “patrolling” of social media and managing the intersection of commercial, public, and military parts of the EM spectrum. The armed services will be able to “hide” in frequencies more easily under the new policy, and may make more previously reserved spectrum available for commercial use. That will also make it easy to deny adversaries use of those same frequencies, a Pentagon official told reporters Oct. 28.

The Air Force did a year-long enterprise capability study of EMS in 2018, which produced, among new concepts of operations, the 55th Electronic Combat Group.

Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Gen. John E. Hyten is overseeing the development of an EMS roadmap, expected to be completed in March. A possible outcome of that roadmap will be the creation of an EMS combatant command.   

Wilson emphasized that EM warfare is very real and directly affects all other aspects of the Air Force.

“Imagine a big ‘gorilla push’ at Nellis,” Air Force Base, Nev., he said, with scores of aircraft launching on an integrated mission. “And if someone’s jamming the GPS, and the [communications], and the datalink, and the radar, and whatever sensor you have. … That’s not science fiction, that capability exists. So we have to be able to fight through it and dominate in that spectrum.”