U.S. Army Tests Advanced Cyber Weapons

Dismounted soldiers in front of M1 main battle tank.
July 3, 2017 | Source: National Public Radio, Around the Nation, npr.org, 31 May 2017, Steve Walsh

Soldiers at the remote Fort Irwin, Calif., center are training with a new generation of cyber weapons. Turns out, electronic gizmos can make a difference on a real life battlefield.

In the remote southern California desert, Army soldiers are testing advanced new cyberweapons. The question is - are they too complicated to use on top of all the other equipment soldiers need in the field? Steve Walsh with member station KPBS spent a couple of days at Fort Irwin.

STEVE WALSH, BYLINE: Most soldiers spend some time at Fort Irwin. The National Training Center in the California desert is the size of Rhode Island. It's the only place large enough to train a brigade of 5,000 soldiers. It's where trainers can show troops the weapons they might face in combat.

GEORGE PURYEAR: Not only be able to say it - right? - be able to demonstrate those effects.

WALSH: Captain George Puryear is one of the trainers. They're the bad guys. It's their job to throw everything they can at the units training at Fort Irwin. He points to a map to show how that now includes cyberattacks and electronic warfare.

PURYEAR: About training day two, they attacked through the central corridor.

WALSH: He tells how the trainers used some of those new tools to stop a tank assault.

PURYEAR: And as those tanks came through, we had a jammer.

WALSH: That electronic jammer can disrupt signals like radio and wireless. It's a technology the Russians have reportedly used to great effect in Ukraine. Soldiers in the training exercise with their communications jammed were forced to get out of their tanks to figure out what was going on.

PURYEAR: And these tanks had to stop, dismount, get out of their protection, reduce their mobility.

WALSH: The result was catastrophic. Puryear's unit rained down simulated fire. Eventually it was game over.