US Army plans to enhance operational-level electronic and cyberwarfare are moving ahead with deliveries of prototype TLS – EAB systems in the offing.
Lockheed Martin will build a prototype Terrestrial Layer System – Echelons Above Brigade (TLS – EAB) ensemble for the US Army’s Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors Programme Executive Office (PEO IEWS). The PEO IEWS issues requirements and procures electronic warfare capabilities on behalf of the US Army, and is based at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.
A press release from the PEO IEWS announcing the news said this phase of the overall TLS EAB acquisition, known as Phase 2, is worth $36.7 million. Phase 1 covered technical reviews of the capabilities offered in response to the TLS – EAB requirement providing opportunities for soldiers to give feedback. The press release continued that Phase 2 should last 21 months. This phase will see representative equipment “tested in a relevant environment.”
The TLS – EAB effort will deliver multi-function EW and cyberwarfare capabilities to support land manoeuvre and joint forces to divisions and corps. Put simply, the TLS – EAB will provide EW and cyberwarfare at the operational level.
A statement provided to Armada by the PEO IEWS said that an operational demonstration of TLS – EAB prototype systems will be performed by a US Army unit in 2025. The operational demonstration will be preceded by several events dubbed ‘touch points.’ These events will give soldiers the chance to evaluate the TLS – EAB architecture and provide feedback. Deliveries of production systems will then follow, possibly that same year.
While the TLS – EAB system is expected to be used in a static fashion, it will be vehicle-mounted, although the PEO IEWS statement said the exact choice of vehicle is yet to be decided. “However, the criterion for the platform is a vehicle that is common to most operational units.” The Steyr/Oshkosh Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles “is being considered as the TLS – EAB prototype platform.”
As Armada has previously reported, the TLS – EAB ensemble is likely to include two vehicles: One will carry a Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) and electronic attack system. These systems will likely detect and engage threats using frequencies of circa 30 megahertz up to 18 gigahertz. The second vehicle will carry a defensive electronic attack system. This apparatus will help safeguard friendly communications networks and radios from hostile electronic/cyberattack. This latter vehicle will perform cyber/electronic attack to pre-empt hostile actions but will not collect SIGINT.
The first recipients of production TLS – EAB systems could be the army’s Multi-Domain Task Forces (MDTFs). The MDTF concept forms the bedrock of the force’s strategy to defeat anti-access/area-denial postures with units earmarked for Europe and the Asia-Pacific.
According to a US Congressional Research Service document MDTFs will have strategic fires, air defence and brigade support battalions. An Intelligence, Information, Cyber, Electronic Warfare and Space (I2CEWS) battalion will support these. The I2CEWS includes two military intelligence companies, a signals company, an extended range sensing and effects company, and an information defence company. It is reasonable to assume that the TLS – EAB will support all these elements. The system will perform electronic/cyberattack on their behalf and on behalf of MDTF kinetic formations.
Initially deploying the TLS – EAB with the Multi-Domain Task Forces is both a sensible and prudent move. Given difficult relations between the US, and the People’s Republic of China and Russia, Europe and the Asia-Pacific are potential flashpoints. Ensuring that advanced electronic and cyberwarfare capabilities can support the army’s manoeuvre force should the unthinkable happen is paramount.
by Dr. Thomas Withington