Navy’s Joint CREW looks for next generation
of improvised explosive device defenses
By ROXANA TIRON, Seapower Correspondent
The Navy-led team tasked with finding ways to
defeat roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan is
entering a critical stage this year: identifying the
future technologies that could counter attacks against U.S.
forces anywhere in the world.
Since 2005, the Joint Counter Radio-Control Improvised Explosive Device Electronic Warfare (JCREW) team
has favored immediate solutions to improvised explosive
device (IED) attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are
becoming increasingly sophisticated. As of March, IEDs
had killed more than 1,600 U.S. servicemen and women
in Iraq, according to iCasualties.org, a full 41 percent of all
U.S. fatalities in-theater.
JCREW personnel have been using jammers to block
the radio frequency triggers used to remotely detonate
IEDs. When being jammed, cellular telephones and other
devices used as triggers are not able to complete the signal. As a result, the improvised bombs do not explode.
Vehicle-mounted devices are being installed on
Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, or MRAPs,
by Navy Space and Warfare Systems Center personnel
in Charleston, S.C., before they are sent to theater.
But this year, the JCREW team, led by Navy Capt. Mark
Kavanaugh, is looking for a globally deployable system
and the appropriate and flexible software architecture to protect troops —
whether the Soldiers or Marines are
on foot, traveling in a vehicle or within the confines of a base.
“This is the continuing evolution
of where we are today,” Kavanaugh
said of JCREW’s upcoming effort,
known as spiral 3. 3. “It’s an ongoing
process. Electronic warfare does not
stop. It’s a constant, cyclical kind of
evolution. Our objective is to stay
ahead of the threat.”
The “family of systems” his
team is looking to develop, for use
in any theater of operations, would
keep communications and jamming systems compatible, effective and functional at all times.
Larger-scale software and hardware upgrades could
be made to these systems as technology advances and
Details, however, remain scant as to how the new
jammers would be deployed, installed and maintained,
as the technology is still evolving.
During the past couple of years, U.S. and allied militaries have learned by trial and error that different kinds of
jammers can interfere with one another and block communications by friendly forces, according to Kavanaugh.
Last year, the Army, with the help of Navy electronic warfare experts, removed many of the conflicts from
its radio spectrum by adjusting the frequencies the
jammers were homing in on. Before these changes,
jammers were turning radio communications into static and interfering with bomb-disposal robots by disrupting their remote control signals.
Conversely, radios were interfering with jammers.
That meant Soldiers and Marines would turn off jammers to use their radios, and vice versa, leaving them
vulnerable to attack. Now, U.S. forces can operate jammers and radios simultaneously.
Team aims for a globally deployable “family of systems” to protect
troops on foot, in a vehicle or within a base from IEDs that will provide flexibility yet won’t interfere with other communications.
■ “Our objective is to stay ahead of the threat,” says JCREW
team leader Navy Capt. Mark Kavanaugh.
■ U.S. and other militaries have been learning what works and
what doesn’t largely by trial and error.
■ Technological hurdles remain as various systems will need to
operate on the same software, with changes easily programmed.