Electronic Warfare (EW)
UNDERSTANDING ELECTRONIC WARFARE
This is the contest for control of the electromagnetic spectrum, a battle fought through the discipline of electronic warfare, or EW, and without it there can be no mission success.
On the modern battlefield, there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye. Above and beyond the missions we can see and hear – on the ground, in the air and at sea – a hidden battle pulses and surges, and along with it, the prospects of victory or defeat.
WHY ELECTRONIC WARFARE MATTERS
Modern military capabilities rely increasingly on the electromagnetic spectrum. Warfighters depend on the spectrum to communicate with each other and their commanders, to understand the environment and inform decisions, to accurately identify and engage targets, and to protect them from harm.
EW provides a vitally important function – protecting our access and use of the spectrum – while simultaneously denying and degrading an adversary’s use and access.
ELECTRONIC WARFARE IS A GAME OF CAT AND MOUSE
The story of electronic warfare is one of intrigue, secrecy and technological innovation at the cutting edge. Throughout its history, EW has played a significant role in helping military leaders maintain a strategic edge in a battlespace experiencing rapid technological advances.
As nations learned to exploit the electromagnetic spectrum for military advantage – in areas like communications, navigation and radar – military strategists and scientists simultaneously engineered ways to deny their adversaries those similar advantages. A cat-and-mouse dynamic emerged in the competition for spectrum superiority – one that continues to define the advancement of the field today.
Global technologies and developments in EW are leveling the playing field. The proliferation and affordability of commercial electronics and computing power means that EW is no longer the exclusive province of wealthy nations; it is now a battlefield for smaller states and even non-state actors. EW helps sort through this complexity, making sure our systems are able to communicate, identify and combat enemy radar.
The future of U.S. and allied spectrum superiority will require increasingly innovative strategies that keep our warfighters ahead of current and emerging threats.
ELECTRONIC WARFARE: HOW, WHERE AND WHY
How does a fighting force use the electromagnetic spectrum? What does spectrum superiority look like? The answer depends on the mission at hand and the specific circumstances facing the warfighter.
Electronic warfare is employed in three ways: offensive, defensive and supportive measures. In other words, the spectrum is used to attack the enemy, to protect friendly forces and to provide critical situational awareness that aids warfighter decision-making and increases the likelihood of mission success.
WHAT IS AN EW SYSTEM
An electronic warfare system, whether configured to attack, protect or support, must have a way to collect and make sense of the signals in its environment.
Electronic warfare (EW) systems can be configured for a variety of different missions and use a host of different subsystems. But despite this incredible sophistication and diversity, there are three main capabilities common to most electronic warfare systems – sensing the environment (receiver sensor), analyzing the environment (signal analysis), and responding to the environment (technique generation and high power transmission).
Sense and understand the environment
An electronic warfare system, whether configured to attack, protect or support, must have a way to collect and make sense of the signals in its environment. It must identify what’s out there, understand how it’s using the spectrum, and determining if it’s a threat. This is the system’s “receive” capability, and it is usually performed by a subsystem called radar warning receiver (RWR).
Address threats head on
If the RWR detects a signal and analysis determines it to be an unavoidable threat, the EW system must then neutralize it and passes the threat data to the technique generator which determines how the system should respond to address the threat. The technique generator will select the jamming technique with the highest likelihood of success, based on a number of factors including the particular threat’s characteristics, the EW system’s host platform and the domain of battle – land, sea or air.
Jam, broadcast, transmit
For an EW system to conduct electronic attack or electronic protect missions, it must be able to broadcast signals of its own to dominate the electromagnetic spectrum. Once a threat is analyzed, and a response generated, it’s the ability of the EW system’s transmitter(s) to precisely radiate electromagnetic energy that makes jamming, spoofing, deception and other electronic countermeasures possible.
Electronic attack is used to degrade, disable or destroy an adversary’s use of the spectrum.
Electronic attack may be used to deny an adversary’s ability to communicate, navigate, gather intelligence or locate targets on the battlefield.
Electronic attack is an integral part of a military operation, enabling and empowering land, sea and air forces to achieve their missions. It is often employed by friendly forces to establish air superiority through the suppression of enemy air defenses and disruption of communications.
Because it is intended to create wholesale confusion and disruption of an adversary’s ability to communicate, monitor and protect its airspace, electronic attack is typically performed by dedicated units – in the air or at sea – whose primary purpose is to achieve wide area spectrum dominance.
Electronic protection is also used to deny adversarial forces’ use of the electromagnetic spectrum, but its posture is defensive.
Electronic protection systems defend individual aircraft, ships, ground vehicles and personnel from electronic threats by providing a protective shield around the platforms and crews in the immediate vicinity.
Electronic protection systems provide threat warning and the means to actively protect themselves.
By understanding the threat landscape, warfighters can avoid detection, prevent hostile systems from locating or tracking them, and, if engaged, generate electronic countermeasures that defeat the threat by a variety of means, including radar jamming, deception or other sophisticated techniques.
Summary Importance of EW in modern day warfare has increased many fold during the last few decades. Main reasons of this importance are increased reliance on radar and OTH targeting, Increased use of Communications and Tactical Data Systems (TDS), increased capabilities of missile & weapons systems and the fact that modern Active/Passive homing long-range missile give little warning. EW has 3 components, Electronic Support (ES), also known as ESM (Electronic Support Measures), Electronic Attack (EA) also known as ECM (Electronic Countermeasures) and Electronic Protection (EP) also known as ECCM (Electronic Counter Countermeasures).