Having taken up a new post with the German Ministry of Defence, Commander Malte von Spreckelsen reflects on his time as chair of NATO’s Electronic Warfare Working Group and his participation in the alliance’s Joint Electronic Warfare Core Staff.
To understand the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s (NATO) Electronic Warfare Working Group (NEWWG) and the Joint Electronic Warfare Core Staff (JEWCS) one must understand NATO’s EW structures overall. NATO’s Military Committee is comprised of the chiefs of defence of the alliance’s members. Below the Military Committee sits NATO’s Electronic Warfare Advisory Committee (NEWAC). This is the principal forum in NATO for consultation and coordination on EW matters. To this end it is responsible for advising and implementing the EW policies of the committee. The JEWCS provides NATO with EW expertise, support and training for operations and exercises. It liaises closely with the NEWAC, with the director of the JEWCS supporting the NEWAC in an advisory role as a non-voting member of the council. Meanwhile the NEWWG provides a forum for consultation and co-ordination of EW matters that are best resolved outside regular NEWAC plenary meetings. The NEWWG will execute tasks as directed by the NEWAC based on NEWAC priorities. In addition the working group discusses ad hoc EW issues as required and advises the NEWWG on NATO joint, air, land and maritime EW policy and doctrine, and development of EW-related standards. The NEWWG also assists in developing EW tactics; drafts and proposes changes to all EW-related documents, and liaises with any NATO groups dealing with EW.
The JEWCS was established in its present guise in 2013. Cmdr. von Spreckelsen joined the JEWCS in 2015 and became head of the EW working group in 2017: “The EW training delivered by the JEWCS was well known in NATO and member nations, however the support with subject matter experts, and policy and doctrine that JEWCS could provide with my section was not so prominent,” he explains. “My team managed to be very proactive to bring us up front so that we could better advise the Supreme Commander Europe (NATO’s military head), Allied Command Operations (responsible for planning and executing all alliance operations) and Allied Command Transformation (which focuses on modernisation) with EW capabilities and advice.”
Cmdr von Spreckelsen continued that the JEWCS enjoyed success in helping NATO notably SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe), the alliance’s division responsible for controlling all its global operations, to become increasingly ‘EW minded’: “We travelled to many meetings and briefed the audience on what the JEWCS is for and what we can bring to the table. This was highly appreciated and accepted.” In particular, the Commander’s section in the JEWCS examining EW policy “managed to become one of the key players for EW within NATO. We were able to provide EW advice on many occasions and supported the refocusing on EW as an important discipline.” This also resulted in an overhaul of NATO’s EW doctrine which underwent a rewrite and, as of September 2019, has been presented to NATO’s member nations for ratification: “When ratified, in my view, NATO will have a state-of-the-art doctrine to perform EW at the operational level. The credit goes to the members of the EW Working Group who dedicated their knowledge to this doctrine.”
Cmdr von Spreckelsen still feels that there is work to be done, particularly in bringing “EW back where it belongs within NATO and wider operations overall. To make leaders understand how important it is nowadays to be able to comprehend and operate in the electromagnetic spectrum.” Beyond NATO’s new doctrine, he emphasises the importance of “promoting the context of electromagnetic operations on all levels … We have to brief the commanders and the high ranks over and over again about what the threat is and where we are, and that we are able to handle the threat in the spectrum.”
Key to this, Cmdr von Spreckelsen argues, is the refocus towards Electromagnetic Operations (EMO) is opposed to EW; the former being the holistic approach to treating the electromagnetic spectrum as a manoeuvre space in its own right which can be harnessed to one’s advantage and to the detriment of one’s adversary. He is confident that such an approach to EMO will become standard within NATO in the coming years. Above all, Cmdr von Spreckelsen believes that people are the strongest asset of NATO’s EW community: “My most important observation is that this community is full of good men and women promoting the right thing. The national subject matter experts are all very dedicated to helping advance EMO. Comradeship, respect and a very strong will to move forward is truly something I have seen.”