Electronic warfare can be used for a wide range of combat functions to include jamming or thwarting an electronic signal used to detonate an IED, identifying enemy communications or electronic signals, and attacking or disabling enemy electromagnetic signals.
The new EW technologies are being engineered to detect, respond to and operate in a wider range of frequencies to provide commanders with more offensive and defensive options. They are being designed as upgradable hardware and software that can accommodate new threat information as emerging signals are learned, Army officials said.
“The nature of the electromagnetic spectrum is such that it is increasingly contested and increasingly congested. You must be able to attack in the spectrum and defend in the spectrum and also ensure that you manage the spectrum. In order to do all of these things, you must gain and maintain an advantage in the electromagnetic spectrum,” said Col. Jim Ekvall, electronic warfare division chief.
The new EW systems will be configured to go on unmanned aircraft, helicopters and vehicles, among other platforms, Ekvall added.
One of the new technologies now in development is called Electronic Warfare Planning and Management Tool, or EWPMT, which allows commanders to synchronize and integrate a host of electronic warfare signals. EWPMT is slated to be ready by 2016.
Another new system, scheduled to enter formal production in 2021, is an offensive system called Multi-Function EW.
“This is an offensive oriented system consisting of airborne, mobile vehicle, man-portable and fixed-site applications. All of these variants are offensively oriented. In other words they are used to attack the enemy’s command and communications and other things that use the electromagnetic spectrum,” Ekvall said.
Defensive Electronic Attack, or DEA, is another Army EW system which attacks the enemy by preventing enemy EW systems from damaging personnel, materiel and buildings, Ekvall added. DEA is slated to enter production in 2023 after the Army completes an expected analysis.
The Army’s experience learning how to jam IED-detonating signals in Iraq and Afghanistan during more than a decade of combat has greatly informed the current EW modernization effort. As a result, the new technologies will be scalable, meaning they are being engineered to accept new frequencies and threat signal information as needed.
For example, IED-detonating electronic signals began with simple garage door openers or remotely-controlled electronic devices – and then quickly migrated to more advance frequencies using a wider range of devices such as cellphones and other technologies. New EW hardware, therefore, is being configured to accept software updates when new threat information is learned, Ekvall explained.