The Lieutenant's Tales: "Electronic Warfare"

(To Gianluca Celentano)

(Continue) Putting myself in the shoes of a curious reader who does not know the military environment, nor the broad spectrum of Electronic Warfare, I understand the amazement at the excess voltage, anger and probably curses launched by the gunners at the transmitters for a rotary phone does not ring or is not heard correctly.

In reality it is not trivial at all: we need continuous confirmations before an action, even fire. An example that is easier for a reader unfamiliar with defense to understand is perhaps imagining tanks with no ammunition on enemy lines or an aircraft in flight that is low on fuel.

Filippo, as he continues his story, seems to have taken a leap in time, appears apprehensive and asks not to summarize too much: important details are found in the details given. In short, I understand that he is reliving the tension that he and his men felt in the simulation, aware that - if it had been a real alert - we would have lost a battle.

The fury of the commander and his company

“On the third day in the morning there were interference problems on all the receivers and to solve them we temporarily interrupted all the connections and started changing the working frequencies with difficulty. When everything seemed to work, other problems arose. In fact, if the radio part worked, the telephone part had problems again, some telephones worked again at times. Everyone's nervousness was starting to make itself felt.

This time instead of changing telephones we began to change the channels of the carrier frequency equipment and, for each channel, we had to cut that telephone or telegraph line. We also replaced all the telephone cords that connected the telephone. The tension between us operators also increased and our company commander was under pressure from the office heads who were unable to carry out their duties regularly.”

Something in the air was changing

Philip does not say it but the PANIC was descending, albeit martially disguised. What was happening that was so strange that it had never happened before? According to protocol, all problems have answers, but here… no.

“In the evening all the systems worked perfectly because the frequency pollution in the atmosphere decreased with the closure of the companies.

The fourth day was a black Thursday, since the morning: there were problems in the radio connections, our correspondent's signal disappeared from our receivers covered by other stronger and more silent signals then, after a few minutes, both the strong signal and the of our correspondent. Suddenly nothing worked for several minutes.

We tried to change all our equipment, we went by exclusion but it wasn't enough, we were all disoriented and, even on a psychological level, we began to doubt the work of the correspondents and the materials. We had never been in a situation like this!

It's impossible to explain all the implications on all levels: punishments, bullshit and lots and lots of stress. In addition to the disappointment, there were also heated discussions among colleagues.

On the last day the same things happened as on the previous day. The exercise for us transmitters, despite the hours of work, commitment and anger did not go well. It went badly for the gunners too: they only partially managed to do their job.”

I dare not think of the anger between transmitters and gunners and the many insults launched between officers...


“After the exercise, after about an hour, all the participants were called to attend a meeting inside the shed where the artillery command was located. Instead of desks, the lounge was filled with chairs. We didn't know the reason for this meeting, we sat down and suddenly the commander of the Anzio Electronic Warfare battalion entered.”

“I knew immediately what had happened”

“The commander explained to us that they were also active in this exercise and everything that had happened was thanks to them: jamming and interdiction techniques were used and more.

He let us hear the recording of everything we operators had said to each other and everything the operators said on the phone. The tape was full of BIP because big words were said.

This report, made me think a lot transmitters (I'm talking about operators for radio links), we had never studied and we didn't know the techniques of electronic warfare, nobody knew exactly how they operated and what the effects were on telecommunications.

The biggest surprise came later, when no one raised the problem of training staff on this very important matter.

Recalling - today - events that happened 40 years ago might make you laugh but, on that occasion, there was not even a half smile".

I don't know the current preparation of our technicians on this matter and I don't even know the materials they have supplied, however I think that - today - with the advent of sophisticated computers, satellites and artificial intelligence it is much more difficult to counteract this phenomenon .

Everyone was in the dark during the drill, everyone didn't understand, not even the colonels.

All according to plan

“The commander of the Electronic Warfare battalion told us that the exercise had gone very well for them, that the recorded tape was perfect and that it would become study material.”

According to the story, criticality will not really become a subject of study in the departments. At least until the end of the NCO's active service, which took place on the threshold of the new century.

Read first part: The lieutenant's tales: a field like many others...

Read the second part: things get tense...

Read: The lieutenant's tales: "Sergeant Hartman" (first part)

Read: The lieutenant's tales: "Sergeant Hartman" (second part)

Read: The lieutenant's tales: coffee

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