Open Approach May Equal Success in EM Spectrum Operations

2020-01-30  |  4 min read 

The warfare of the future is electronic warfare (EW), where the electromagnetic (EM) system is the primary battlefield that every side wishes to control. It is the field where computerized systems communicate, detect, attack, and protect assets. As threats evolve and change, your system must adapt.

Countermeasures strive to prevail over a constant stream of new threats. As the battlefield becomes increasingly crowded with devices that demand more of a limited spectrum, sorting through signals and identifying them is imperative. Future systems will move from being adaptive to using new AI and machine learning capabilities to decipher constantly changing spectrum use.

Software defined weapon technology allows for continuous upgrades without needing to completely invest in entirely new systems. The new electromagnetic spectrum battlefield is increasingly challenging, and the technology and weapons need to respond accordingly – even if it means breaking from the dependencies of past projects and adopting a flexible, scalable open architecture approach.

An Open Architecture to Model Threats?

A primary challenge for EW systems is the shortened timeline for countermeasure advances compared to the long development and upgrade cycles of EW systems. Traditional EW solutions were designed to respond to specific, established threats that did not evolve. However, this closed-architecture approach cannot adequately respond to today’s evolving EW threats due to increased component integration time, limited lifespan for parts, and a rise in technology obsolescence and refresh rates.

The procurement process also requires roughly three years for high-profile systems from order to delivery – often not including further customization. Yet EW technology and threats progress at a nearly daily rate. In contrast, open architectures present a route to dynamically responding to the ever-changing threat environment.

The future may well call for a new kind of EW approach, which supports multiple hardware types and new technology insertion. Such an architecture could keep pace with rapidly evolving threats while reducing lead times for new systems and test capabilities.  Using a common set of interfaces and non-proprietary file formats, such an approach could allow simulator agnostic threat models to be developed – not limited to only one vendor’s hardware. 

Modern EW systems must constantly evolve as new and emerging technologies transform these systems. Taking a cue from the commercial side, EW systems may win and maintain the lead in future EM operations with a more “open” environment – one that allows participation from multiple vendors and does not demand proprietary-only formats. Combining forces – or technological developments – could prove to be the winning tactic in future EW operations – much as it was in the use of allied physical forces in the past.

For more information on Keysight’s solutions for evaluating and testing the latest EW systems, visit our site.