Can You Trust Your Countermeasures?

2022-01-06  |  4 min read 

Last month, U.S. Marine Corps pilots aboard Air Station Camp Pendleton received critical, specific training in electronic warfare (EW). According to Marines, the training enabled members of the Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 267 to increase their familiarity with the AN/ALQ-231 Intrepid Tiger II EW pod. This training was achieved with signals intelligence specialists with Team Ronin of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing intelligence section. Such specialized training underscores the need for government and military personnel to understand how their systems function in the electromagnetic spectrum operations (EMSO) environment – especially in response to threats.

In today’s EMSO environment, unknown threats constantly emerge. If successful, an attack prevents an opponent from leveraging the EM spectrum to achieve their operational objectives. With accurate threat detection and analysis, your EW systems can successfully react to threats with prevailing countermeasures. 

Unfortunately, the threat of your system not responding adequately always looms. Such uncertainty leads to an unacceptable level of risk in mission-critical operations. For insight into how an EW system will respond with electronic countermeasures (ECMs), you can generate threats for your system and evaluate the resulting ECM response.

A Game of Cat and Mouse

The goal of an ECM device is to deceive detection systems like radar, sonar, or infrared. Aircraft, ships, and even advanced tanks rely on electronic countermeasures to protect them from attack. The ECM device may perform offensive or defensive actions. 

As radars advanced to evade countermeasures, ECM systems responded with new capabilities. Radars, for example, become increasingly sophisticated by continuously evolving. Once those technology capabilities are known, countermeasures undergo performance advancements to supersede them. Each time the threat or countermeasure progresses in capabilities, the other will develop past it. As the two sides compete against each other, every step in development grows increasingly complicated.

To prevail in this environment, military and government personnel must boost their knowledge and expertise. In December, the U.S. Marines squadron was trained on the Intrepid Tiger II, which Marines describes as a precision, on-demand, external carriage EW weapon system. It is designed to provide Marine Corps aircraft with an organic, distributed, and networked EW capability that can be controlled from the cockpit or by a ground operator. With an open architecture design and rapid reprogrammability, IT II promises the flexibility and adaptability to meet current and future threats.

Given how rapidly spectrum conflicts occur, human response is often too slow at this point even with the best training. As a result, EW systems themselves are gaining intelligence. Modern threat systems now have sophisticated software and machine learning capabilities to learn from these events to predict outcomes. The tracking systems evolve in their attacks and respond to adversary countermeasures using new protocols to ensure success. As uncertainty increases in terms of what your systems may face, analyzing the electronic countermeasures indicates if you will succeed using the spectrum operations that are already in place.

Keysight provides threat generation and analysis to assist you in stimulating your system under test and analyzing the ECM response to the potential threats. Find out more in our new white paper, “Detect and Analyze Electronic Countermeasures in Dense Signal Environments.”