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Both the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Defense Science Board have recently called for action to close what they found to be gaps in our country’s Electronic Warfare (EW) capabilities. Spanning the gap that was identified and what is achievable to counter immediate and real threats to the Electromagnetic Spectrum (EMS) is not a bridge too far.
In fact, battalion-level, integrated EW systems are currently being provided by DRS Technologies to key foreign allies. These Electromagnetic Battle Management (EMBM) systems are performing successfully in very challenging conditions.
With cross-border conflicts increasing across the Middle East - including an armed rebellion in Yemen and ISIS on the move in Syria and Iraq - a number of nations are looking to the United States to provide an integrated EW capability that can allow their forces to disrupt, deny, degrade, destroy or deceive within the EMS battlespace.
An integrated EW system starts with state-of-the-art Electronic Support (ES) capabilities that receive, recognize, monitor, decode, direction find, and geo-locate signals of interest in all relevant radio frequency (RF) bands. This capability is enabled by advanced signal processing.
Recent advances in signal processing technology provide a vital edge in dynamic environments. Automatic Signal recognition is now capable of sorting through complex spectrum usage and quickly identifying nearly any signal on the modern battlefield - with extreme accuracy. This occurs in all relevant Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) bands simultaneously in the electronic surveillance mode or the electronic attack mode across the full spectrum of radio frequencies, from 2 MHz to 6 Ghz, and across the range of transmission devices, from cell phones to intercepted satellite signals.
The resulting system provides our allies with the capability to:
“Advanced signal processing technology can be a huge asset to friendly forces trying to ensure total situational awareness in an otherwise clouded and highly complicated electromagnetic spectrum,” said John Baylouny, vice president and general manager of DRS’ Advanced Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (AISR) business.
These ES sensors, which can either be mobile (using military or commercial vehicles) or fixed sites, are networked together with modern, high-bandwidth communications links. Combined, these sensors and communication links provide a wide aperture for sensing and geo-locating enemy spectrum usage.
The integrated EW system also includes Electronic Attack (EA) capabilities. It is periodically necessary for our allies to jam and disrupt communications among hostile forces and individuals. Ideally, these EA elements are not collocated with the ES sensors, but have the ability to sense jamming effectiveness and adapt to changing needs. In most of these scenarios a mobile EA capability is needed – and commercial vehicles can be utilized to provide covert operations.
The ES and EA elements are seamlessly integrated in the DRS EMBM system, which delivers support of the complete EW Mission lifecycle through a distributed software and communications framework. The EMBM system provides for the development of mission planning, tasking, command & control (C2), signal detection, collection, and geolocation, reporting, analysis, and top level intelligence development in the form of a common operating picture (COP) and electronic order of battle (EOB).
With this integrated network of sensors, the EW commander can plan for the deployment of assets, monitors real-time health and status, and receive gathered intelligence from every corner of the battlespace. These capabilities enable the development of dynamic mission profiles that are based on an accurate picture of the evolving situation.
Even with advances in technology (or perhaps because of those advances), one of the challenges to success is EMS education and training. Any successful implementation of an integrated EW system must include classroom training in the fundamentals of wave propagation, signal processing, SIGINT, COMINT, and specific system operations and maintenance. Ideally students must be permitted to simulate electronic search and electronic attack features of the integrated system.
“Investment in the EW operator is at least as important as investment in EW equipment,” said Baylouny. “Training in wave propagation fundamentals through system operation pays off in skilled and efficient use of the EW equipment”, he said.
The simulations that form an essential part of the EMBM system training help government and military students to sharpen their skills in real-life scenarios that mirror the day-to-day signal processing environment of the battlefield. Utilizing the same software in training as on the system is imperative, and offered as a key enabler for this training.
As the US Army works on a path forward to rebuild its EW capability, both in terms of equipment and personal capability, our Middle Eastern allies are already fielding an integrated capability at the battalion level -- systems that could bridge those gaps.
DRS’ proven EMBM system, which is currently fielded and in use with our Middle East allies, provides a low-risk approach for the US Army to build upon, as it works to re-establish its dominance in the worldwide EMS battlespace.