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Electronic Warfare

Electronic Warfare_082522A
[Electronic Warfare - US Department of Defense]


- Overview

Times have changed dramatically, from ancient leaders fighting with arrows and swords to the rise of remotely operable electronic warfare technology. It goes without saying that technology, which provides us with high-end safety and efficient places to work, can also cause great damage to human beings if misused. 

An example of modernization is the advent of electronic warfare. It is such an advancement that can start a battle invisibly. Comprising a range of equipment including drones, radars, RCIEDs and more, the military and intelligence agencies now use complete electronic warfare systems. 

Defeating threats before they are detected can provide critical operational advantages to armed forces in the air, water, ground, and even space. Providing a key advantage in support of missions is what electronic warfare (EW) is all about. 

Electronic warfare (EW) is the use of electromagnetic or directed energy and integrated cyber capabilities to carry out military and intelligence missions. The more rigorously the military exploits the full electromagnetic (EM) spectrum - radio, microwave, millimeter wave, infrared, visible, ultraviolet, and gamma rays - and network effects, the more successfully it will be able to preempt countermeasures and electronically way to deal with the attack. 


- Electronic Warfare (EW) and The Eelectromagnetic Spectrum (EMS) 

Electronic warfare (EW) has been a part of contemporary conflict since the first battlefield radios were introduced. However, it goes far beyond simple radio communication interference. Armed forces can use electronic warfare equipment to sense, access, and manipulate the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) to conduct operations.

EMS provides navigation, positioning, communications, and other amenities to military personnel; electronic warfare provides such assistance to allies and keeps enemies inaccessible. Additionally, they can intercept and decode communications to gather information about enemy targets. Electronic warfare such as RCIED jammers, drone locators, or ESM/ELINT systems are often silent and undetectable, and can neutralize enemy actions during counterattacks. Since every machine and instrument communicates using electromagnetic waves, electronic warfare is possible on land, sea and air.


- Electromagnetic Warfare

Electromagnetic warfare, commonly referred to as electronic warfare (EW), is defined by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) as "any military operation involving the use of electromagnetic and directed energy to control the electromagnetic spectrum or attack an adversary."

A more precise definition is a military or intelligence operation that uses all or part of the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) (radio waves, microwaves, millimeter waves, infrared, visible, ultraviolet, X-rays, and gamma rays) to detect operations or communications, prevent enemy activity, Communicate and/or deny adversaries use of these signals.

Defeating a threat long before it is detected can provide armed forces in the air, on the water, on the ground, and even in space, a critical advantage in combat. Providing critical advantages to support the mission is what electronic warfare (EW) is all about. Electronic warfare (EW) is any operation that involves the use of the electromagnetic spectrum (EM spectrum) or directed energy to control the spectrum, attack an enemy, or prevent an enemy attack. 

The purpose of electronic warfare is to deprive an adversary of an advantage -- and to ensure friendly unhindered access to -- the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS). Electronic warfare can be applied from air, sea, land, and/or space through manned and unmanned systems, and can target communications, radar, or other military and civilian assets.


- Three Subcategories of Electromagnetic Warfare

The Electromagnetic Spectrum_NASA_101821A
[The electromagnetic spectrum from lowest energy/longest wavelength (at the top) to highest energy/shortest wavelength (at the bottom). (Credit: NASA's Imagine the Universe)]

Electronic warfare (EW) stands for the ability to sense, protect and communicate using the electromagnetic spectrum (signals such as radio, infrared or radar). At the same time, electronic warfare can disrupt, deny, and degrade an adversary's ability to use these signals.

This advanced functionality is generally divided into three subcategories:

  • Electronic Support (ES): Sensing of the electromagnetic spectrum. ES is the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) function of electromagnetic warfare. This part of the mission is to sense, intercept, identify, and track electromagnetic energy sources to identify threats, collect targeting (geolocation) and signals intelligence data, and inform future operational planning.
  • Electronic protection (EP): Preventing a receiver from being jammed or deceived. EP is a form of threat suppression that uses a range of cyber and multispectral radio frequency/infrared (RF/IR) tools to prevent electronic warfare receivers from being jammed or spoofed by an adversary's electronic attack (EA). It also prevents "overflow" jamming signals from nearby friendly forces from accidentally interrupting the signal.
  • Electronic Attack (EA): Disrupt, deny, degrade, destroy, or deceive. Analyzing threats and calculating responses. This portion of the mission uses EMS (Electromagnetic Spectrum) signals, directed energy pulses, or combined network effects to disrupt, deny, degrade, deceive, and otherwise neutralize enemy hostile electromagnetic actions. These attacks are typically carried out by advanced electronic warfare jets or helicopter platforms, but can also be carried out by unmanned vehicles, ships, ground vehicles, etc.


While many technology companies claim electromagnetic spectrum expertise, successful development, deployment, and maintenance of advanced, continuously updated electronic warfare technologies on time requires state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities and global ES, EP, and EA mission support capabilities. This has become more true than ever with the proliferation of DoD performance requirements in recent years.

- Directed Energy Weapons (DEWs)

A directed energy weapon (DEW) is a long-range weapon that destroys its target with a highly concentrated energy, including lasers, microwaves, particle beams, and acoustic beams, in the absence of a solid projectile. Potential applications for the technology include weapons against personnel, missiles, vehicles and optical equipment.

A DEW is an electromagnetic or particle technology that uses energy rather than a physical projectile to strike a target. DEW has been in development for decades. Despite initial enthusiasm and research for the technology, the advancement of DEW faced a number of technical and operational challenges. In recent years, however, the technology has matured and funding for these capabilities has increased.

Recognizing their attractiveness as weapons, and their potential threat and impact on international security if used maliciously, DEWs are listed as one of the technical areas in the United Nations Secretary-General's 2021 report Current Developments in Science and Technology and Their Potential Impact on International Security and disarmament efforts.

- The Starlink Constellation as a Platform for Emerging U.S. Warfare Concepts 

According to a translation of the research paper provided by David Cowhig's Translation Blog, the Chinese researchers believe that the U.S. military can use the Starlink constellation as a platform to improve and enhance the flexibility of space-based systems and anti-destructive capabilities. 

At the same time, the U.S. military can also use the Starlink constellation as a platform for emerging U.S. warfare concepts typically represented by mosaic warfare. 

The study defines mosaic warfare as a new type of combat that arbitrarily combines standardized functional units of a large number of smaller single-function combat elements with uncrewed, autonomous systems to build an adaptable and flexible kill network that can be adjusted promptly according to the demands of the battlefield. 

It also argues that Starlink could have seamless all-weather surveillance and reconnaissance capability, space-based target detection and/or suppression capabilities, and broadband communication capabilities that could aid the U.S. military on the battlefield if they can modify the satellites within the constellation.



[More to come ...]



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