All modern forces depend on unimpeded access to, and use of, the EM spectrum in conducting military operations. Therefore, there is a requirement to gain and maintain an advantage in the electromagnetic spectrum by countering adversary’s systems and protecting one’s own systems. Thus the EM spectrum can no longer be viewed as an enabler, but rather as a primary warfighting domain, on par with land, sea, air and space operations. This is leading to race among all Militaries to introduce innovations in sensors and communications, countermeasures, and counter-countermeasures in an attempt to gain an advantage over their enemies.
Electronic warfare provide means to counter adversary’s systems while protecting one’s own systems through Electronic Attack (EA), Electronic Protection (EP) and Electronic Support (ES). EA is the electronic countermeasure which includes jamming and deception of enemy radars, electro-optic and communication systems. It also includes use of anti-radiation missiles (ARM), electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and directed energy weapons (DEW). Electronic protection (EP) is the ECCM including such measures as emission control (EMCON), communication security (COMSEC) and electromagnetic hardening. Electronic support (ES) includes all actions taken for the purpose of real-time threat reorganization in support of immediate decisions involving EA, EP, weapon avoidance, targeting or other tactical employment of forces e.g. Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) and Communication Intelligence (COMINT).
While electronic warfare has been a priority for the US defense community since World War II, Clark said that recent advances by Russian and Chinese militaries have ramped up US interest in the technology.
The US Navy is courting proposals from defense contractors to design the next generation of electronic warfare (EW) technology. It’s looking for devices that can be used to jam enemy radar and missile systems and deceive hostile forces—and the service branch wants equipment that “goes to 11.” “The saying is, ‘He who controls the electronic spectrum controls the world,’” Stanton Parsons, a former Navy pilot who flew the radar-jamming EA-6A Electric Intruder airplane, told Quartz. “If you don’t control the electronic warfare spectrum, you will lose.”
Reflecting the Navy’s increasing use of small, unmanned ships and drones to augment and extend the capabilities of its existing force, the service branch is looking for ways to use a multitude of these devices to at once create an antenna capable of sending out radio frequencies with the power equivalent to those emitted from “black hole jets” or “gamma ray bursts,” according to documents from a Navy presentation given to defense contractors last month and posted in a federal contracting database.
Those celestial bodies generate extremely large amounts of power at incredibly high frequencies, which “would be very hard to defeat if you’re using that as a sensing technology,” Bryan Clark, a former special assistant to the US chief of naval operations and a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a national security research institute in Washington DC, told Quartz. “Because to jam it an adversary would have to generate equivalent power and generate at a very high frequency,” he added. Clark said that such technology would also potentially be capable of frying enemy electronics with the amount of radiation it generated.
US Navy continuous upgrades for shipboard electronic warfare system
Northrop Grumman was awarded a $267m contract by the US Navy to develop and manufacture the next-generation SEWIP Block 3 system. SEWIP Block 3 will provide Electronic Attack (EA) capability improvements required for the AN/SLQ-32(V) system to keep pace with the threat. The SEWIP Block 3 solution features active and passive arrays, and electronic warfare and communications functions with continuous 360° coverage. Designed to easily interact with the combat management system, the system’s multi-mission technology provides unprecedented situational awareness to detect, track and engage threats in high-clutter environments.
In contrast to traditional systems designed to operate in a narrow range of frequencies against known threats, “SEWIP Block 3 brings active electronic attack across a wider frequency range…with digital processing that will facilitate new ‘intelligent’ EW processing that will enable the system to react to signals it has never seen before,” said retired Navy commander Bryan Clark, now with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “SEWIP Block 3’s AESA array enables it to be a passive sensor, communication array, or a radar,” he added. “It could also confuse or obscure aircraft and ship radars” as part of the Navy’s new “electromagnetic maneuver warfare” concept.
Traditionally, ships try to shoot down incoming missiles with their own interceptor missiles at the longest possible range, Clark says, but long-range interceptors are expensive and bulky, and ships can’t carry enough — nor can the Navy afford enough — to fend off a Chinese or Russian-style mass salvo. That puts a premium on “non-kinetic” systems that can keep shooting as long as they have electrical power, like the Navy’s prototype laser or the SEWIP Block 3 jammer.
The SEWIP Block 3 enhancements for the shipboard AN/SLQ-32 will be provided through a series of upgrades that will involve the addition of new technologies and capabilities for early detection, signal analysis, threat warning and protection from anti-ship missiles. SEWIP Block 4 is a future planned upgrade that will provide advanced electro-optic and infrared capabilities to the AN/SLQ-32(V) system.
The U.S. Navy awarded the Lockheed Martin an initial $148.9M contract for full rate production of Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program (SEWIP) Block 2 systems with four additional option years to upgrade the fleet’s electronic warfare capabilities so warfighters can respond to evolving threats. Under this full-rate production contract, Lockheed Martin will provide additional systems to upgrade the AN/SLQ-32 systems on U.S. aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers and other warships with key capabilities to determine if the electronic sensors of potential foes are tracking the ship.
SEWIP Block 2 will provide enhanced Electronic Support (ES) capability by means of an upgraded ES antenna, ES receiver and an open combat system interface for the AN/SLQ-32. These upgrades are necessary in order to pace the threat and improve detection and accuracy capabilities of the AN/SLQ-32. “The SEWIP Block 2 System is critically important to the Navy’s operation, and we are proud to continue to provide this capability to the warfighter,” said Joe Ottaviano, electronic warfare program director. “Threats are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Our electronic warfare systems give the warfighter information to enable a response before the adversary even knows we’re there.”
Our Nulka Countermeasures system adds yet another layer to a ship’s layered self-defense system against radio-frequency anti-ship missile attacks. The Nulka decoy simulates the radar return from a large ship overlapping the target signal. To an enemy radio-frequency anti-ship missile, it’s a more attractive target instead. For U.S. and allied ships, it’s the smartest and most reliable way to draw missile fire away from our fleet and defeat the threat.
The Navy established SEWIP in 2002. Block 1 provided enhanced electronic warfare capabilities to existing and new ship combat systems to improve anti-ship missile defense, counter-targeting, and counter-surveillance capabilities. SEWIP allows sailors to protect the ship from the threats you can see (incoming missiles) to those you can’t (radar jamming).
The General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems’ AN/SSX-1 is an electronic warfare system that supports a variety of missions including maritime interdiction operations against weapon, chemical and drug smuggling. The AN/SSX-1 collects precision electronic parametric data and correlates it to specific transmissions from ships and aircraft searching for potential matches. It was designed for the US Navy’s Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program (SEWIP) which is an upgrade to the AN/SLQ-32 electronic warfare anti-ship missile defense system
The US Navy in collaboration with Northrop Grumman successfully completed the preliminary design review (PDR) for the next-generation AN/SLQ-32 shipboard electronic warfare system. Integrated Warfare Systems (PEO IWS) programme executive officer rear admiral Jon A Hill said: “This ensures that the cutting-edge preliminary design is on track to meet necessary technology improvements to the AN/SLQ-32 family of electronic warfare systems through specific enhancements to threat identification, prioritisation, defensive systems optimal assignment, and active engagement.” The upgraded version of current AN/SLQ-32(V)6 systems will offer enhanced, fully integrated, threat detection and active radar-jamming capability, in addition to critical enhancements in coordinated electronic warfare defence.
BAE Systems to develop next-generation full spectrum electronic warfare technology
The US Office of Naval Research (ONR) has awarded $11m contract to BAE Systems for developing next-generation electronic warfare (EW) technology that will quickly detect, locate, and identify emitters of radio frequency signals over all threat bands and from all directions. Known as the Full-Spectrum Staring Receiver (FSSR), this technology will enable near-instantaneous full-scale battlespace situational awareness, emitter identification and tracking, threat warning and countermeasure & weapon cueing. Conventional situational awareness systems are not able to deliver the high level of coverage and responsiveness that FSSR will provide.
The ONR programme aims to develop and display a range of next-generation EW systems that prevent adversaries from tapping into the electromagnetic spectrum while ensuring unrestrictive usage to the nation’s allies.
The Electronic Warfare (EW) program’s goal is to control the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) by exploiting, deceiving, or denying enemy use of the spectrum while ensuring its use by friendly forces.
Research Concentration Areas
Research Efforts provide Navy and Marine Corps with:
- Improved threat warning systems
- Electronic warfare support (ES)
- Decoys and countermeasures against weapon tracking and guidance systems
- Electronic attack (EA) against adversary command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR)
- Electronic protection (EP) of our own weapons and C4ISR from intentional and unintentional interference
Research Challenges and Opportunities
- Compact, efficient, multi-spectral EO/IR sources and systems, with a focus on reduced size, weight, power and cost of steering technology including non-mechanical beam steering.
- Compact and efficient EW antennas covering HF to VHF (3-300 MHz), with a focus on technologies that reduce the size and weight constraints of current antenna systems.
- W-band millimeter wave high-power transmitters – develop technology to deny or deceive sensors or weapons guidance systems operating in the millimeter wave band.
- Counter intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR). Explore truly innovative EW concepts which can counter emerging ISR sensor threats.
- Advanced signal processing circuits and algorithms to address complex emitters with reduced size, weight and power over conventional computational approaches.