In modern military combat, the element of surprise and remaining undetected by the enemy are crucial factors for mission success. While traditional methods of camouflage are being bypassed by advancing detection systems, radio frequency detection has emerged as one of the most effective technologies for identifying and tracking dismounted soldiers. However, with the increasing risk of radio frequency (RF) detection, it becomes imperative for military setups to employ mitigation strategies to enhance survivability and increase the chances of mission success. In this article, we will explore the methods for detecting dismounted soldiers, the evolving threat of RF detection, and strategies to minimize the risks associated with radio frequency emissions.
The Seven S’s refer to a set of key factors that can make troops more easily detectable by the enemy.
Seven S’s (shine, shape, shadow, silhouette, spacing, signature, sudden movement) are the key ways in which troops are typically spotted, with survivability greatly enhanced if they can be managed effectively.
- Shine: Shine refers to the reflection or glint of light off objects or equipment that can catch the attention of observers. Troops must take measures to reduce shiny surfaces or objects that could give away their presence, such as using matte or non-reflective materials or employing camouflage techniques to minimize shine.
- Shape: The shape of an object or a person can reveal their presence, especially when it stands out against the surrounding environment. Soldiers should ensure that their outlines blend with the natural surroundings by utilizing proper camouflage techniques, adopting effective positioning, and avoiding distinctive shapes that make them easily identifiable.
- Shadow: Shadows cast by troops can be easily spotted and give away their position. Soldiers should be mindful of their shadows and avoid casting them where they might be visible to the enemy. Understanding the direction and intensity of light sources and adjusting positioning accordingly can help minimize shadow visibility.
- Silhouette: Silhouette refers to the distinct outline or shape of a person or object against a contrasting background. To avoid being easily spotted based on their silhouette, troops should ensure they blend into the background or break up their outlines using camouflage techniques, terrain features, or natural cover.
- Spacing: The spacing between individuals or objects can provide visual cues to the enemy. Troops should maintain appropriate spacing to avoid forming obvious groups or patterns that can be easily identified. By dispersing or spacing themselves effectively, soldiers reduce the chances of being detected as a cohesive unit.
- Signature: Signature refers to any unique characteristics or emissions that can be detected by various sensors, including radio frequency emissions, heat signatures, or acoustic signals. Soldiers should be aware of the signatures they may generate and take measures to minimize their detectability, such as utilizing low-observable equipment or employing mitigation technologies to reduce emissions.
- Sudden Movement: Sudden or abrupt movements can attract attention and increase the chances of detection. Soldiers should move carefully and deliberately, avoiding sudden or jerky motions that could give away their presence. Employing stealthy movement techniques, such as using cover and concealment or moving during periods of limited visibility, can help reduce the risk of being detected due to sudden movements.
By effectively managing the Seven S’s, troops can improve their overall survivability by reducing the visual cues that give away their presence to the enemy. Implementing proper camouflage, maintaining proper spacing, minimizing detectable signatures, and adopting stealthy movement techniques all contribute to enhancing operational security and increasing the chances of mission success.
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RF Detection: The Growing Risk
Radios are an integral part of a soldier’s kit, significantly contributing to mission success. Advanced radio capabilities have brought about enhanced communication but have also increased the risk of detection. Visual and thermal detection methods have limitations, whereas RF detection offers a reliable means of observing, tracking, and identifying troop movements.
RF signatures can be detected day or night, under cover, and in adverse weather conditions, making them a versatile tracking method. Various RF detection systems are available, ranging from handheld devices to larger equipment mounted on vehicles. By analyzing frequency bands, RF detection systems can identify operators, provide transmission origins, and enable accurate tracking and triangulation of soldiers.
Newer radios with integrated capabilities, such as video transmission, pose higher risks of detection. Their wider-band radio devices occupy more of the spectrum, have higher duty cycles, and demand greater power, making them easier to detect. Additionally, military radios that leverage commercial transceivers and waveforms can be particularly vulnerable to detection or jamming. Recent conflicts, like those in Ukraine, highlight the devastating effects that tracking technology enabled by RF detection can have on targeted troops.
Radio detection, communication intelligence, and mitigation technologies (RDCI) are a vital part of modern military operations. These technologies can be used to detect and identify enemy radio transmissions, gather intelligence on enemy communications, and protect friendly forces from enemy electronic warfare. RDCI technologies are used in a wide range of missions, including battlefield surveillance, target acquisition, convoy protection, and special operations.
Battlefield surveillance: RDCI can be used to detect and track enemy forces, identify their location and movements, and gather intelligence on their capabilities and intentions. This information can be used to plan and execute military operations, and to protect friendly forces from enemy attack.
Target acquisition: RDCI can be used to locate and identify targets, such as enemy artillery or air defense systems. This information can be used to direct fire from friendly forces, or to plan airstrikes.
Convoy protection: RDCI can be used to detect and track enemy vehicles, identify their location and movements, and warn friendly forces of potential threats. This information can be used to avoid ambushes or to plan a route that minimizes the risk of attack.
Special operations: RDCI can be used to support special operations missions, such as hostage rescue or counterterrorism operations. This information can be used to plan the mission, to identify potential threats, and to protect the operators from enemy attack.
RDCI technologies are a valuable tool for military forces. They can be used to improve situational awareness, to plan and execute operations, and to protect friendly forces from enemy attack. As RDCI technologies continue to evolve, they will become even more valuable to military forces.
The implications of being detected can have dire consequences. It not only puts lives at risk but also jeopardizes the success of entire missions. When enemies become aware of your presence, they can respond by deploying surveillance drones or troops, launching precision attacks, or initiating indirect fire on the identified position. This heightened level of alertness and counteraction by the enemy poses significant threats to the safety and accomplishment of military objectives. The increasing reliance on RF signatures as a means of detection underscores the need for effective mitigation strategies to counter this evolving threat.
How to reduce the likelihood of RF detection
Radios are and will continue to be a critical part of military operations, with their uses far outweighing the pitfalls, providing those pitfalls can, at least in part, be mitigated. Indeed, while there will always be an inherent risk with using radio communications, there are several ways in which military setups can minimise the opportunity for their adversaries to make use of RF emissions.
Low power: Using low power for radio transmissions can make them more difficult to detect. Minimizing transmission power will reduce the ability to be detected at range.
Narrowing bandwidth will result in less spectrum usage which also reduces the probability of detection.
Directional antennas: Directional antennas can be used to focus the energy of a radio transmission in a specific direction. This can make it more difficult for enemy forces to detect the transmission from other directions.
Software-Defined Radios: These hold multiple waveforms, meaning a particular waveform with its own unique profiles and protections can be selected based on the level of risk in their location. They can also constantly hop frequencies to make it much harder to detect and track.
Spread spectrum: Spread spectrum is a technique that spreads the signal of radio transmission over a wider frequency range. This makes it more difficult for enemy forces to detect and track the transmission.
Frequency hopping: Frequency hopping is a technique that changes the frequency of a radio transmission at a rapid rate. This makes it more difficult for enemy forces to detect and track the transmission.
Cloaking: Cloaking is a technology that uses metamaterials to bend electromagnetic waves around an object. This can make it appear as if the object is not there, which can make it more difficult for enemy forces to detect the object.
Behavioral actions can also help. These include minimising the time spent on air and lowering the duty cycle by reducing retransmissions.
As military operations continue to evolve, the importance of managing RF detection becomes increasingly evident. Radiofrequency emissions pose a significant risk to operational security and mission success. Minimizing the opportunities for adversaries to exploit RF emissions through the adoption of mitigation strategies is crucial. By minimizing transmission power, narrowing bandwidth, utilizing Software Defined Radios, and implementing behavioral actions, military setups can enhance their survivability, protect soldiers, and increase their chances of achieving mission objectives. The ongoing development of radio detection, communication intelligence, and mitigation technologies will play a vital role in maintaining the element of surprise and ensuring the success of future military operations.
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