Col. Charles J. “Jim” Ekvall

U.S. Army Electronic Warfare Div. Chief

Age: 49

Career: Served in Germany as an armor company fire-support officer and as fire-direction officer and platoon leader in a nuclear-capable direct-support field artillery battalion. He was instructional branch chief at the Field Artillery School, and a battalion operations and battalion executive officer at Fort Drum, N.Y. Worked in Army headquarters as the field artillery and electronic warfare organizational integrator for the deputy chief of staff. Deployed twice to Iraq; once for initial entry operations with the 173rd Airborne Brigade, and later as the senior military adviser to the commanding general of the 4th Iraqi Army Infantry Div.

Education: Undergraduate and master's degrees in history from the Georgia Tech Program at Berry College, Mount Berry, Ga.

Aviation Week: What are you trying to establish in the U.S. Army Electronic Warfare Div.?

Ekvall: What we really want is for the Army to have a core EW capability. We don't have that now. That is a revolution.

What, in particular, are some of the capabilities?

The Army wants something that can protect soldiers, platforms and attack enemy C2 systems while protecting U.S. assets. The service is looking for a family of systems that will include ground- and vehicle-fixed assets, be portable and aircraft-mountable. We are focusing especially on command-and-control [C2] systems.

Where does the Army see EW relative to other warfare needs?

This is about electromagnetic spectrum control. It is a ground warfare capability, just like maneuver.

That is a shift. When did the Army take such a strong interest in EW?

In Iraq; the enemy was able to defeat aircraft with million-dollar electronic defense systems with a $2 radio or key fob. We could not let that happen again.

What have been some of the biggest challenges in developing Army-centric EW, especially in the initial stages?

Commanders had to decide whether they wanted to protect themselves, or communicate. [Now,] it is in developing a core capability in an economically austere environment.

What about the EW systems and capabilities offered by other services—do you need something that they fail to offer?

The Navy and Air Force are good at what they do. They are wonderful at jamming and the suppression of air defense. Joint aircraft do a great job at what they need to do—radar suppression. But we need something more. What they are doing—and what we need—is different enough. We need an all-weather, 24-hours-a-day ability to control the EW domain.

The Army is not proposing any of the large, relatively expensive EW platforms being developed by the Air Force or the Navy. Do you plan to leverage some of the technology efforts from the other services for your own efforts?

It is a matter of taking what we already have and packaging it and tailoring it for the Army. It is an advantage. We get a lot of bang for our buck.

What is the key to selling EW programs to leadership, either in the Army or the Pentagon?

What it comes down to is this: What is the acceptable level of risk to senior leaders? Give me the money you use to sustain one squadron—what we could with that for Army EW!

Are you seeing a difference in the Army's approach to EW, especially in training the troops getting ready to deploy?

For a long time there was no EW play for the units training for deployment. Now, all of the Army [combat training centers] receive ground-EW training. We are working with the commanders to incorporate EW. We didn't have the time before. We didn't have the people. We didn't have the money. Now the EW officers are part of the units, training with the commanders. EW officers can go to Aberdeen [Proving Ground, Md.,] to get first-hand experience.

Do you have any joint efforts with the Marine Corps for EW platforms?

We are looking at unmanned aircraft with electronic-attack capability. There is a lot of cross-talk between us and the Marines. We feel the technology is there. But the last thing we need is an EW-unique aircraft.

What is the most important upcoming Army EW development program?

The U.S. Army is getting close to putting out a request for proposal (RFP) for a battle management and planning tool for electronic warfare. We should have an RFP out within 18 months, and we plan to have initial operational capability in fiscal 2015. This is what the combatant commanders need.

As the chief of the U.S. Army's new Electronic Warfare Div., Col. Charles J. Ekvall's job is to provide the service with the means and resources to confuse and dupe an enemy. But there is no confusion about Ekvall's mission, which is to make electronic warfare (EW) a basic beat in the Army's battle rhythm, striking new notes for the service. Aviation Week Defense Editor Michael Fabey interviewed Ekvall recently in Washington.