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Countries developing Network Centric or Distributed EW concepts for Modern Congested & A2/AD RF Environment

The adversaries are fielding increasingly sophisticated networked and agile systems, RF sensing and communications systems, including short-range tactical communications, long-range command and control (C2) communications networks, networked defensive systems, and RF seekers. This is partly due to rising commercial investments in RF materials, components, and subsystems thereby reducing the cost to deploy high power, agile systems, says DARPA. US electromagnetic strategy calls for development of Agile, adaptive and integrated electronic warfare’ to ensure continued US superiority across the electromagnetic spectrum


NATO is also planning to improve Electronic Warfare (EW) capabilities to dominate the Electromagnetic Environment (EME). However, research in the commercial communications market is driving the technology forward at a rapid pace. Asymmetric adversaries can easily obtain advanced communications technology by simply buying smartphones.


Symmetric adversaries can put this kind of technology in a ruggedised box, or extract key technologies. NATO is in an arms race where EW technology needs to maintain pace with commercial development. This is becoming increasingly difficult due to the introduction of increasingly complex signals (e.g. 4G/5G technology). With communications becoming more widespread and our adversaries making increasing use of Electronic Attack (EA), NATO EW equipment will need to operate in an increasingly congested and contested EME.

Australia Distributed EW

DSTO Australia concluded a two year research program in March 2006 that demonstrated distributed, autonomous, self-organising stand-in sensor and effector systems. DEWSAR Test-bed developed to investigate and evaluate new approaches to old problems. For example Hunter-killer scenario.


One of the research program considered the scenario of a manned aircraft dynamically integrating into a self-organising network of small Uninhabited Aerial Systems (UASs) that are capable of collectively adapting their behaviours (either autonomously or via command of the aircraft operator) in order to optimally sense, locate and prosecute a target. That is a “Hunter-Killer” operation involving one manned and a network of unmanned systems.


Activities undertaken to investigate this concept included: Analysis of the Concept of Operations for a EW; Hunter-Killer scenario with EW capable UAS supporting a manned helicopter in a modelling and simulation environment. Miniaturised sensor and effector and UAS payloads were also developed. Novel algorithms for distributed fusion of ES data from UASs were developed. Development of novel aircraft control algorithms for cooperative UAS’s behaviours. Another significant challenge facing distributed ES fusion systems is the association of asynchronous emitter intercepts of interest from geographically separated receivers and when the emitter environment complexity increases.


ES systems can comprise a number of receiver types. In typical receiver, a wideband Instantaneous Frequency Measurement (IFM) receiver is used to monitor the electro-magnetic spectrum from 2-18 GHz. When the IFM detects and deinterleaves a radar target, a library look-up is used to determine if a detected emitter is of interest.


The IFM queues narrowband Superheterodyne (SH) receivers onboard each of two other UASs to tune to and monitor the emission from the same target radar. The pulse descriptor words (PDWs) describing the radar emissions computed by the ES payloads are correlated and used to geo-locate the selected targets using passive geo-location algorithms.


The geometry of the sensors and target is a very important determinant of the quality of geo-location. Agent-based technology developed by DSTO has been demonstrated in field trials to autonomously command and control multiple UAS aircraft to positions that facilitate accurate geo-location of radar emitters.



Distributed EW Operations in the Modern Congested RF Environment

From 14-17 February 2017, the Collaboration Support Office hosted the first meeting of SCI-297 on “Distributed EW Operations in the Modern Congested RF Environment,” a Task Group that is looking at future Electronic Warfare (EW) capabilities needed to dominate the electromagnetic spectrum.

Their intention is to develop distributed Communications Electronic Warfare (CEW) capabilities to identify, geolocate and disrupt modern communications systems. This will ensure that NATO regains the ability to obtain situational awareness and deny adversary use of the Electromagnetic Environment.  This first meeting brought together experts to share the information on the latest technology developments (including 5G) and to plan further research and trial activities.


If headway in this race is not made, NATO operations involving EW for situational awareness, intelligence gathering, cueing of electronic attack or Cyber effects will be severely burdened. NATO needs to find ways to exploit this increasingly congested spectrum in order to acquire and maintain dominance in the EME. The most effective counter to this technical evolution will be the use of networked and distributed NATO EW hardware; single sensors/effectors alone are not up to the task. Distributed EW operations will involve improved cross-cueing, low and high quality sensors, as well as increased data sharing between EW hardware. The result will be high quality EW products enabled through effective signal: detection, classification, geolocation, disruption and denial.


The task group will bring experts from NATO Nations and Partners together to pool knowledge on EW, to:

  • Develop concepts to improve interception of complex future communications targets.
  • Develop distributed EW technologies to improve future NATO EW systems in an evolving, congested EME.
  • Validate & demonstrate techniques through joint field trials.
  • Provide an integration path for EW leading to compatibility across NATO.


The focus within the task group will initially be on two use cases:


  • MIMO systems (as in 5G); and
  • Making sense of a congested EME (e.g. overlapping and interleaved transmissions).


DARPA distributed EW

The current platform-centric EW systems are limited in their ability to generate essential EW effects required to counter emerging threat system developments and employ advanced EW concepts.


DARPA is focusing on the development of next generation EW systems, to counter these advanced networked and agile systems using technologies such as distributed systems, coherent systems, disposable systems, providing asymmetric capabilities, and close-in remote sensing coupled with advanced jamming and spoofing.


The vision for distributed EW is a network-enabled, coordinated and spatially distributed EW system-of-systems to counter emerging asymmetric threat capabilities by providing time-critical situational awareness (SA) of adversary dispositions and activity, denial of the enemy’s SA of friendly force dispositions and activity, and camouflage and deception to dilute enemy engagement capacity.


Distributed EW will provide the following objective capabilities: wide area, real-time location determination of adversary emitters; automated recognition of threat emitter operating modes; adaptive electronic attack response to threat emitters; wide area camouflaging to deny target detection or cause misclassification of targets; wide-area deception through synchronized decoy control; denial or corruption of enemy sensing capabilities by synthetic generation of high-density clutter environments; seamless operability and graceful degradation of network- enabled functions in dense EM environments; and simplified scalability and ability to upgrade through modular and open systems architecture design.




References and Resources also include:



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