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NATO refocussing on development of Electronic Warfare to match sophiticated capabilites of its adversaries

For NATO forces, the Electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) is an essential part of military operations, so much so that many Allied leaders now see the EME as an operational environment and a part of the battlespace where friendly forces manoeuvre in time, location, and spectrum to create electromagnetic effects in support of the commander’s objectives. Several factors pose a challenge to NATO operations. First, the high EME usage by the military, civil sector, and adversaries produces congestion, which constrains NATO force manoeuvre.


Countries like Russia and China have significantly upgraded their capabilities to operate in the EMS. In Eastern Ukraine, Russian-backed forces used sophisticated jamming and interception tactics to undermine communications and surveillance drones. New revelations by the Norwegian military and allied officials that Russia persistently jammed GPS signals during NATO’s recently concluded Trident Juncture exercise in Europe’s High North region are disturbing for their implications.


Reacting to the Norwegian Defense Ministry’s statement, NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu said: “Finland has expressed concern over possible jamming in Lapland. In view of the civilian usage of GPS, jamming of this sort is dangerous, disruptive, and irresponsible. In general, we see cyberattacks and electronic warfare used with greater frequency and severity.”


In its EW policy, NATO defines Electronic Warfare as ‘a military action that exploits electromagnetic energy, both actively and passively, to provide situational awareness and create offensive and defensive effects’. It is warfare within the Electromagnetic Spectrum (EMS) and involves the military use of electromagnetic energy to prevent or reduce an enemy’s effective use of the EMS while protecting its use for friendly forces.


Due to both the evolution of how NATO conducts operations and the emerging technologies, the focus for EW has shifted from isolated operations in the EMS to joint Electromagnetic Operations (EMO) in the Electromagnetic Environment (EME). Within NATO, EMO involves the deliberate transmission and reception of EM energy in the EME for military operations such as communications, navigation, attack, battlespace awareness, and targeting. EMO not only enables operations in each domain but also provides the thread which links and integrates military forces across the domains and to the cyberspace and information environments.


NATO is presently rewriting its EW Doctrine and is investigating how to operate in the EMS more effectively.


NATO Conducts Electro Magnetic Operations Trials

Standing NATO Maritime Group One (SNMG1) began conducting Electro Magnetic Operations (NEMO) trials off the coast of the United Kingdom Nov. 1. Naval Electro Magnetic Operations (NEMO) trials, developed by NATO’s Above Water Warfare Capability Group (AWWCG), provides a venue for the alliance to evaluate the effectiveness and validate NATO Electronic Warfare (EW) tactics and systems.


“While the impact of electronic warfare cannot always be physically seen, the potential effects it can have on maritime, air and land assets can be devastating if they are not detected early enough to prevent or combat,” said Cryptologic Technician (Technical) 2nd Class Junae Glover, SNMG1’s staff chief electronic warfare specialist. “Having the opportunity to see the capabilities of our electronic systems while under simulated pressure during NEMO will allow forces to increase their knowledge and understanding of the warfare area.”


The 2019 iteration of NEMO trials will see a focus on force anti-ship missile defense, demonstrating improved means of achieving force defense to minimize the threat to NATO maritime forces. The exercise also offers an opportunity for experimental tactics and procedures to be evaluated prior to NATO adopting them as formal doctrine for use by allied nations.


“With over 70 years of experience building common doctrine and procedures as well as interoperable systems, the alliance remains committed to staying at the forefront of technology, including in critical maritime areas like electronic warfare and anti-ship missile defense,” said U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Edward Cashman, commander of Standing NATO Maritime Group One and head of NEMO trail 2019 forces.


“While NEMO has a science and technology focus on electromagnetic operations, the exercise will also offer NATO an opportunity to evaluate tactics, techniques and procedures, providing feedback to allied nations on the effectiveness of existing doctrine. As the maritime landscape continues to evolve, exercises such as NEMO will help maintain alliance nation forces at the forefront of capabilities while also demonstrating readiness and interoperability to any potential aggressors,” he added.


Aircraft from the United Kingdom Join Support Air Tasking Organization and other air assets will participate in NEMO to provide a realistic threat simulation. Maritime forces and land-based assets will also work simultaneously; ensuring allied nations take advantage of the opportunity to learn methods to exploit electronic warfare capabilities in a rapidly changing technical environment.


SNMG1 includes the flagship U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Gridley (DDG 101), the Royal Norwegian Navy frigate HNoMS Thor Heyerdahl (F-314), the Belgian Navy frigate Leopold I (F930), the Portuguese Navy frigate NRP D. Francisco de Almeida (F334), and the Royal Netherlands Navy frigate HNLMS Van Speijk (F 828).


SNMG1 is one of four standing maritime task groups composed of ships from various allied countries. These task groups form the core maritime capabilities of NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF). They provide a continuous maritime capability to execute NATO missions across the spectrum of operations, demonstrate solidarity, and strengthen diplomatic and professional links among allied naval forces.


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