Backpack jammer prototyped by CACI’s Mastodon passes early Army test

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — Preliminary testing of a portable jammer soldiers can sling to their backs and use to

Backpack jammer prototyped by CACI’s Mastodon passes early Army test

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — Preliminary testing of a portable jammer soldiers can sling to their backs and use to manipulate electronic signals while on the move was successful, according to its makers and a U.S. Army official.

The service in November put the Terrestrial Layer System-Brigade Combat Team Manpack, or TLS-BCT Manpack, through an operational demonstration at Fort Huachuca in Arizona. CACI International-owned Mastodon Design months earlier won a $1.5 million contract to prototype the system, built utilizing the company’s existing Beast and Kraken electronic-warfare products.

“I think we were very happy with what we saw and where it’s going,” Todd Probert, CACI’s president of national security and innovative solutions, said in an interview at the Reagan National Defense Forum in California. “We’re not sleeping on the last test. We’re continuing to look to new modes of capability.”

The TLS-BCT Manpack is designed to give troops a mobile means of molding the electromagnetic spectrum to their advantage. It is a smaller offshoot of the TLS-BCT, to be installed aboard Stryker and Armored Multi-Purpose vehicles, and the longer-range TLS-Echeclons Above Brigade, envisioned for use by divisions and corps amid preparations for fighting with Russia and China.

A key consideration of the backpack version is its physical load: size, weight and power, often referred to as SWaP. Soldiers carry dozens of pounds of gear; adding to the pile can be annoying at least and debilitating at most.

“We’re already asking people to carry too much stuff. In my judgement, those parts of the defense industry that can deliver an exquisite capability that doesn’t break the back of the operator, literally, is going to be a premium,” Michael Nagata, a CACI strategic adviser, senior vice president and retired Army lieutenant general, said in an interview at the forum. “I mean, my average combat load when I was in service was well over 60 pounds.”

The Army is attempting to reinvigorate its electronic warfare arsenal after years of complacency. While such tools were used in the Greater Middle East, threats posed by larger world powers are motivating the U.S. military to rethink its strategies and spending. Contracts for the TLS line have so far totaled tens of millions of dollars, with Lockheed Martin winning much of it. CACI is collaborating with the company on the TLS-EAB as well.

Army Brig. Gen. Ed Barker, the leader of the Program Executive Office for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors, or PEO IEW&S, in a statement said the demonstration of the manpack last month “set the standard” for future users. Army Forces Command contributed to the evaluation.

“They were highly motivated, highly competent, innovative problem-solvers,” Barker said. “They excelled at not only learning and operating the manpack system, but also demonstrated how their teams can successfully operate and influence the battlefield.”

CACI in 2022 earned $4.3 billion in defense-related revenue, securing the No. 27 spot on the Defense News Top 100 list of the world’s largest defense contractors. The company bought Mastodon Design for $225 million in 2019.

Colin Demarest is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covers military networks, cyber and IT. Colin previously covered the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — namely Cold War cleanup and nuclear weapons development — for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.

Noah Robertson is the Pentagon reporter at Defense News. He previously covered national security for the Christian Science Monitor. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English and government from the College of William & Mary in his hometown of Williamsburg, Virginia.

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