U.S. EA-6B Jets Jam Cell Phones in Iraq, Block IEDs

U.S. EA-6B Jets Jam Cell Phones in Iraq, Block IEDs

U.S. psychological operations experts are taking control of insurgent radio broadcasts in Iraq and disrupting the cell phone traffic with special pods on EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare aircraft.

Using a BAE SYSTEMS USQ-113 communications jammer, Prowler crews are able to hijack enemy radio or other radio frequency (RF) systems, Capt. Chris Field, commander of the Pacific Fleet’s electronic attack wing, said Oct. 24 at the Association of Old Crows annual international symposium and convention.

Defense contractors and Navy officials connected with the Prowler program and other electronic warfare systems said they were surprised that Field would be so candid about the jammer’s capabilities in an open forum. They said they had assumed such information would be classified.

Field called the USQ-113 “a big part” of psychological operations, which use communications to influence attitudes and behavior.

“TV, radio — we can jam it, intrude on it, broadcast messages from our own system, take away their systems,” he said. He declined to elaborate.

But Field added that the military has found another mission for the jammer: It can thwart cell phone communications used to set off certain improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which continue to haunt and kill American forces in Iraq. In an interview following his presentation, Field specified that the Prowlers could attack only certain IED operations: those triggered by cell phones or other radio frequencies.

The aircraft also can jam walkie-talkies, to prevent the type of enemy communications seen in the movie “Black Hawk Down” that warn of incoming U.S. helicopters.

“For the 113, it’s bread and butter,” Field said. “We can take their eyes away, selectively.”

He said that the jamming pod soon will get even more effective when it is linked with sensor nets and more powerful computers. This will first happen aboard the 14 Prowlers slated to be upgraded under the two-year-old ICAP III program, which will give the planes better jammers and threat-location devices. The first ICAP III planes are scheduled to deploy in January, Navy officials said.

ICAP III Prowlers will be able to provide a truer and more immediate picture of enemy vehicles and emitters: their locations, their movements and even their intentions. The upgraded planes also may be able to broadcast fake orders to the enemies, enticing them to move as U.S. force commanders want, say people familiar with the ICAP program.


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