Industry Insights

New Threats Lurk In EW Environment

2019-12-13  |  4 min read 

Over the last decade or so, major changes swept through the warfare environment. While more traditional weapons and combat tactics are still used, a greater danger was revealed: the rise of new actors and threats in the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum. Technology trends led to smaller players suddenly having easier access to threat capabilities. As a result, the larger forces that traditionally dominated the electronic warfare (EW) domain faced new threats.

Such threats continue to grow in number and sophistication due to the convergence of the following trends:

1. Availability of technology: 10 years ago, very few players dominated this battlefield. The technological capabilities and investments required to dominate in EW prohibited others from developing competing EW capabilities. As commercial electronics became cheaper and more available, however, adversaries of all sizes entered the EW fray. Even smaller adversaries now potentially have a competitive threat arsenal, making the threat environment more dangerous and unpredictable. With the barrier to entry so low, anyone with the right skill and knowledge can secure enough equipment to be a threat.

2. Software-defined radio (SDR) systems: Originally, SDR translated to a reconfigurable radio based only on software. Analog-to-digital conversion occurred directly at the antenna. Modern SDRs often take more complex forms, however, changing their operating frequency, modulation, operating bandwidth, and network protocol without having to change the system hardware. As speeds increase for both digital signal processing (DSP) and analog-to-digital converters (ADC), more signal processing occurs digitally. By leveraging such systems, military forces can more easily upgrade their threat systems.

Military forces can use the EM spectrum to detect enemy forces, deceive them, or disrupt their efforts. With different forms of electronic attack, they can weaken, disable, or even devastate their enemy’s spectrum usage. The new EW threats inflicting this damage greatly challenge the success of countermeasures, making it difficult to stay a step ahead of them.

Even small adversaries can leverage commercially available technology, such as Global Positioning System (GPS) jamming equipment. An attack carried out on navigation, for example, could threaten the military’s ability to synchronize operations. The possibility also exists for the adversary’s threat to provide inaccurate position, timing, or navigation information. This possibility could cause problems ranging from confusion to horrific accidents. Threats do not have to conduct a visible attack when they can instead cause failure in communications, coordination, and other operations.

Due to the abundance of new, modern, responsive threats, military forces vie for control of the EM spectrum. Spectrum dominance enables them to detect, deceive, and disrupt enemy forces while protecting their own military. Should this dominance be achieved, military forces must constantly innovate their EW threats and countermeasures to stay in that leading position. To keep pace with the ever-changing threat environment, military forces demand flexible, scalable solutions. A risk mitigated today may not be an issue six months from now, putting military forces in the position of always facing a new threat or even foe.

To learn how Keysight solutions support capabilities ranging from threat simulation to signal capture and analysis, visit our site.