Soldiers and Army Civilians from U.S. Army Cyber Command (ARCYBER) and the U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence (CCoE) take part in the third annual ‘Cyber Blitz’ exercise.
According to 780th Military Intelligence Brigade (Cyber), U.S. Army has taken the opportunity at the ‘Cyber Blitz’ exercise to exercise new concepts, capabilities and techniques for everything from offensive cyberspace operations (OCO) and defensive cyberspace operations (DCO), to electronic warfare (EW) and information operations (IO).
Cyber Blitz is an annual exercise co-hosted by U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) and the CCoE that informs the Army on how to employ cyberspace electromagnetic activities, or CEMA, across all aspects of Army doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel, facilities, and policy, or DOTMLPF-P.
“Army Cyber Command’s people are in contact with adversaries every day, around the world, and constantly advancing and improving the Total Army’s ability to act swiftly and decisively in cyberspace,” said Brigadier General Richard E. Angle, Deputy Commanding General for Operations at U.S. Army Cyber Command. “Cyber Blitz is a tailor-made environment to put these operational lessons to the test. The integration of Information Operations, Electronic Warfare, and Cyber enables a traditional infantry brigade to quickly enter and fight within an adaptive, demanding cyber training environment. Ultimately, Cyber Blitz is elevating the entire Army’s ability to train, fight, and win across all domains.”
This year’s activities, which took place throughout September, examined how the integration of OCO, DCO, EW, intelligence, space, and IO, could help a brigade combat team (BCT) gain and maintain the advantage against a regional peer in multi-domain operations in a no-consequence environment against live targets.
“Cyber Blitz is the only venue that allows for Army CEMA personnel across ARCYBER and FORSCOM (U.S. Army Forces Command) to be the primary training audience,” said Lt. Col. Wayne Sanders, CEMA Support to Corps and Below (CSCB) chief for Army Cyber. “We can exercise new concepts, capabilities and techniques without worrying about detracting from a maneuver unit’s training objectives while still being informed by expert BCT staffs and commanders who recently returned from deployment.”
Sanders said ARCYBER’s mission here at CB 18 was to bring the Cyber Warfare Support Battalion (CWSB) construct, which was recently approved by the U.S., Army, and the Expeditionary CEMA Team (ECT) model, that ARCYBER has been exercising at the Combat Training Centers (CTC), and exercise the full complement of the ECTs’ tools and capabilities, including OCO, DCO, EW, and IO. The goal of the CSCB experiment was to provide the maneuver commander and his staff from 3rd BCT, 10th Mountain Division (3-10 MTN), with additional options within the cyberspace domain and electromagnetic spectrum to increase their lethality and create an overmatch against our near peer adversaries.
“As an analyst, I’m used to the physical side – real terrain, real physical personas that we are tracking – this is more of the cyber side,” said Pfc. Riley Lamas, an all source intelligence analyst with the 317th Engineer Battalion, 3-10 MTN. “We’re tracking internet and cyber capabilities as a whole, (which) is totally different from what I’m used to…it’s definitely unique. We’ve been fighting an insurgency recently and I believe the next big conflict is going to happen in cyber, so I’m taking part in something that is going to help the Army win its next battle.”
The 780th Military Intelligence (MI) Brigade (Cyber), Cyber Protection Brigade (CPB), and 1st IO Command, all major subordinate commands under ARCYBER, sent Soldiers and Army Civilians to participate in the experiment to test new concepts, capabilities and techniques within their respective OCO, DCO and IO disciplines.
“Cyber Blitz is going really well. We are identifying weaknesses and patching them up – immediately, and we are finding new ways to improve our systems,” said Spc. Ian Campbell, an expeditionary cyberspace operations specialist assigned to the 782nd MI Battalion (Cyber) ECT. “Additionally, we get to work with EW and the BCT staff, however, the focus is on us. It’s given us the opportunity to show them what we can do and they get to see our perspective from our point of view. It’s going to create a synergy between all the units and teams working together.”
Maj. Nolan Barco, who is assigned to the CPB, was the DCO assessor for CB18 and he echoed the value of CB18 as a venue to test and validate new concepts and capabilities in a permissive environment. His DCO Soldiers and Civilians enhanced the BCT operations by reinforcing the tactical network and introduced the concept of securing key terrain in the electromagnetic spectrum versus geospatial.
Additionally, Soldiers representing the electronic warfare and information operations disciplines talked about the value of working with their brethren from OCO, DCO, intelligence and space.
“We’re all reliant upon each other. If I’m an electronic warfare guy I’m relying on signals intelligence to tell me what my targets are. At the same time if a cyber operator needs to get to something over the radio they are going to come to me. We’re all working together in one fight,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 James Gill, technical advisor to doctrine, lessons and best practices at the CCoE.
Gill served as the EW accessor for CB18 and observed how the EW, SIGINT (signals intelligence), and cyber personnel were integrating in order to take back lessons learned for the EW community.
“Cyber Blitz enables electronic warfare by allowing us to practice our tradecraft in a less constricted environment, at the same time we’re the focus of the experiment,” said Gill. “This gives electronic warfare personnel that focused attention just like a maneuver guy gets at the CTC so then can really practice and mold their craft.”
Staff Sgt. Andrew Frame, an IO noncommissioned officer assigned to the 151st Theater Information Operations Group, U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (USACAPOC), was at CB18 to support the ECT with intelligence.
“What excites me about my job is answering difficult questions. Doing intelligence work in both information operations and cyber,” said Frame. “It’s a new frontier for the MI discipline within the Army and we get to address these questions, we get to think about discussions in an abstract way and try to inform doctrine going forward.”
Sanders explained, in addition to validating the CWSB construct and the ECT model, ARCYBER was integrating the Army’s vision for multi-domain operations to inform the U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) multi-domain task force (MDTF) on how fight in the cyberspace and the EW domain. The ICEWS (Intelligence, Cyberspace, Electronic Warfare and Space, pronounced I-Qs) detachment is a new unit being formed under the 17th Fires Brigade, and Sanders explained the Army doesn’t have to wait for it to be fully manned – CB18 and future USARPAC exercises can inform the process now.
All of the CB 18 participants came away with valuable lessons learned to take back to their commands which will also benefit the Army by providing an overmatch in capabilities against a regional peer in a potential future fight.
“What excites me is that we are at the forefront of technology to be able to increase the lethality of the brigade combat teams, divisions and corps of the Army,” said Sanders. “We are looking at the wave of the future for how the Army is going to fight multi-domain operations using and leveraging technology. Being able to test that out here at Cyber Blitz and bring that to the brigade-level is pretty amazing.”