The British Army has embarked on the latest chapter in the wholesale renewal of its electronic warfare capabilities.
The tender for Project Cornerstone was launched on 10th November 2022. Valued at between $121 million and $485 million Cornerstone sees the delivery of a “networked land Electronic Warfare (EW) and signals intelligence capability,” the tender continued. Few details were revealed in the tender notice beyond the requirement for Cornerstone’s architecture to use “common standards.”
As Armada reported previously the army is undertaking a much-delayed overhaul of its EW posture. The force plans to acquire eleven ARTEC Boxer wheeled armoured fighting vehicles configured for EW. They are likely to be deployed with the 14th Signals Regiment (Electronic Warfare). This is the army’s dedicated electronic warfare formation. It is part of 6th (UK) Division and is headquartered at RAF Upavon, southwest England. The division is responsible for cyber, EW and information operations.
It is over two decades since the UK Ministry of Defence first tried to replace the army’s legacy EW platforms and capabilities. In 2001 the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) contracted Lockheed Martin to provide a suite of backpack and vehicular EW systems for the manoeuvre force under the ill-fated Soothsayer programme. Cost overruns of circa $60 million spelt Soothsayer’s demise in 2009. Soothsayer was followed by Landseeker. This was to have procured a scalable EW architecture to replace all electronic warfare systems used by 14th Signals Regiment.
The regiment currently uses SC Jackal wheeled reconnaissance vehicles to provide EW support to the army’s 16th Air Assault Brigade. GKN Sankey FV-439 tracked electronic warfare vehicles provide similar support to the manoeuvre force. Both vehicles are believed to use variants of L3Harris’ Broadshield electronic attack system. The FV-439 platforms are expected to be replaced by the Boxer EW variants. Electronic warfare support for dismounted operations is provided by the army’s Roke Resolve backpack EW system.
13th Signal Regiment
Last February, Armada learned the army will receive a new EW and signals unit to equip the manoeuvre force. The new unit will be raised by re-rolling the army’s 21st Signal Regiment. This formation is based in Colerne, western England. According to official MOD information, the regiment is responsible for tactical, operational and strategic communications. Other responsibilities include the deployment of wide area networks and information systems. It comprises 215 Signal Squadron which supports brigade headquarters, 220 Signal Squadron assisting brigade elements and a support squadron. The re-rolling of the unit for its new electronic warfare tasks should occur by 2024, according to the MOD source.
The 21st Signal Regiment will form part of a new British Army Cyber and Electromagnetic Activities (CEMA) group. “The timetable to establish the CEMA group is still being finalised,” the source continued. Once activated, the group will be headquartered in Andover, southeast England. In 2018 the MOD published its CEMA doctrine. This prescribed the deeper coalescence of cyber and EW capabilities across the British military. By 2028, both the 14th and 21st Signal Regiments will have been joined by the new 13th Signal Regiment responsible for cyber operations. All three will form the army’s new CEMA group.
A written statement provided to Armada by the MOD said Project Cornerstone architecture will include hardware and software along with “integration into relevant platforms to support brigade combat teams.” The statement confirmed these will include the EW-configured Boxers “based on current planning and funding.”
Once delivered, the MOD expects to continually enhance the Cornerstone architecture throughout its service life: “This aims to deliver the capability (identified by continuous operational analysis) to the end user as early as possible, whilst maximising flexibility to adjust to any future opportunities and threats. To that end there may/will be several vendors that are cohered into a system of systems delivery.” Details on when Cornerstone will enter service remain classified, the statement concluded.
Cornerstone’s advent is undoubtedly good news for the British Army and UK land forces in general. The rejuvenation of UK land electronic warfare assets has already been postponed on numerous occasions. It is now going ahead and will see the army adopting a state-of-the-art, future-proofed EW system. As Europe sees a return of great power competition, these capabilities will be indispensable.
Read our other Electronic Warfare articles from the newsletter:
- Radioflash! Episode 1: Voices from Space
- Radioflash! Episode 2: A Work of Fiction
- February Spectrum SitRep