U.S. Army Europe radios are vulnerable to jamming and interception, hampering forces at a crucial time as Russian unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) use has troops returning to basic fieldcraft techniques.

U.S. Army Europe Commanding General Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges said Wednesday though the radio problem is a “mix of technology and politics,” he’s optimistic it can be resolved, but he admitted the Army still has a “ways to go” toward correcting the issue.

U.S. Army Europe Commanding General Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges. Photo: Army.
U.S. Army Europe Commanding General Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges. Photo: Army.

“We’re always going to be multi-national, so if (we) want to be effective, everyone is going to have to talk and communicate on the same FM radio and also digitally,” Hodges told reporters at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) conference in Washington. “Yet we don’t have the level of interoperability we need.”

Hodges said “significant” Russian UAV capability in eastern Ukraine has U.S. Army Europe training soldiers to think detection from air, how to talk on the radio and where radio communications get intercepted. He said soldiers used to not worry about camouflage nets because the enemy didn’t have the ability to fly overhead and use long-range artillery and rockets.

Hodges said Russia’s integration of UAVs into different levels, much like the United States with unmanned systems, has caught his attention. He said Ukranians have described seeing certain types of Russian UAVs and knowing rockets will “land on top of them” within 10 or 15 minutes.

“That’s a high-end capability,” Hodges said about Russian UAV capabilities.

The Army in late September kicked off Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 16.1/Army Warfighter Assessment (AMA), which allows soldiers to formally evaluate systems in a field environment between Fort Bliss, Texas, and White Sands Missile Range, N.M. Once separate events, the Army merging NIE and AMA together allows the Army to help modernize, develop and refine its tactical communications network, according to an Army statement.

NIE 16.1, which ended Oct. 8, featured more than 9,000 soldiers, 14 partner nations, 300 platforms and 20 command posts. Set up as a Coalition Joint Task Force structure, the exercise was supported by live and simulated brigade units as well as partner nations.

Going forward, the Army will hold one NIE each year, focused on testing and evaluation of network programs of record to meet testing requirements and validate the Army’s capability sets for fielding. The annual AWA will provide a more experimental environment used to shape requirements and develop capabilities for the future force.