New Army Electronic Warfare Weapons Change "Jamming" Attack Tactics

Kris Osborn

Video Above: Air Force, Raytheon Upgrade Weapons to Respond to New Threats

By Kris Osborn - Warrior Maven

(Washington, D.C.) What if an advancing Army armored unit were maneuvering through mountainous terrain to “close with an enemy” when it is suddenly hit and disabled by an incoming artillery attack... because a small, hovering enemy drone finds its location and transmits an electronic signal back to an enemy firebase? With its location compromised, the unit is paralyzed by enemy fire and denied freedom of maneuver.

However, what if the armored unit is able to change its location and obscure itself from enemy fire when an EW detection system finds the electronic signature emitting from the enemy drone, deconflicts it from friendly electromagnetic emissions and then “jams” the data link connecting the drone to its operators, immediately disrupting the enemies’ ability to know the location, speed and direction of the attacking friendly force. Simply put, the maneuvering force can no longer be targeted by the enemy because the drone’s electronic sensors and transmission systems have been destroyed or rendered ineffective.

Or, how about if a reconnaissance unit of dismounted soldiers scouting through enemy territory encounters massive interference with its radio links to headquarters, due to EW attack. However, what if the attack is instantly thwarted by a multi-function, software defined EW sensor is able to find and track the hostile electronic signal and help facilitate the reallocation of communications frequencies for the recon unit, therefore enabling the continuation of secure communications? In order to “hop” from a jammed frequency to a clearer one, an operator or automated technical system would need a complete, integrated understanding of the spectrum and how its many variables intersect.

These kinds of solutions are increasingly becoming a tactical reality for Army soldiers by virtue of ongoing service efforts to synchronize computer systems with EW applications and engineer innovative kinds of EW software systems.

Raytheon weapons developers are working with the Army to maximize this growing cyber-electronic warfare synergy to upgrade an EW application intended to help distinguish, analyze, emit, compare and disseminate time-sensitive, combat-crucial electromagnetic signatures in combat.

Engineers from Raytheon are now preparing a new “Capability Drop 4” software drop for its Electronic Warfare Planning and Management Tool (EWPMT), an EW-capable, software driven multi-functional computer system built to find, track and analyze the increasingly complex and lethal electromagnetic spectrum in war.

Drawing from advanced algorithms, EWPMT software is intended for precisely these kinds of aforementioned scenarios and offers an irreplaceable type of on-the-spot analysis to soldiers operating within a forward-positioned Tactical Operation Center (TOC).

“EWPMT is designed to synchronize and assess all of the cyber electromagnetic activity in the TOC to allow the Commander to make informed decisions regarding things that are going into the spectrum,” Jeffrey Polhamus, Product Line Lead, Multi-Domain Battle Management, Raytheon Intelligence and Space, told Warrior in an interview.

EWPMT can help identify and deconflict friendly emissions as well as enemy signals simultaneously to sift through and analyze a crowded and complex electromagnetic spectrum with friendly force, civilian and adversarial components.

“We are a software system and not a jammer or receiver, but we integrate with all of those things to support the breadth of all the EW types of systems and the waveforms they may need to produce,” Polhamus said.

AI-enabled, multi-frequency EW systems, such as those brought to life with EWPMT, could operate from armored platforms, tactical vehicles or forward-moving small drones to not only extend the sphere of a ground unit’s sensor reach but also identify, organize and deconflict what could be high-threat, complicated and congested electromagnetic spectrum. Perhaps an EWPMT system, engineered with the requisite algorithms and information analysis tools, could identify enemy radio communications or electronic radar systems on the other side of a mountain, providing ground commanders with a decided advantage. By using AI, perhaps EWPMT could take this even a step further, and draw upon an ability to perform real-time analytics on a wide scope of variables to include frequency, range, terrain and enemy threat data to recommend an optimal course of action for the commander in a particular circumstance?

For instance, EWPMT is engineered to discern which emissions or frequencies were hostile from within an otherwise crowded electromagnetic field, analyze the multi-frequency signal data against a known database in seconds, and render problem-solving, organized analysis to human decision makers amid fast-changing combat operations.

“We are trying to help provide decision aides to the EW officer to help them visualize and organize command and control. A lot of the work so far has been to work with the EW officer to understand how the tool helps them modify their procedures,” Polhamus said.

Army developers tell Warrior the service is now integrating EWPMT sensors, software and EW detection technologies into its emerging signature system called Command Post Computing Environment …. a networked series of mounted and dismounted high-speed computers designed to support soldiers at war by sharing data between otherwise disconnected “nodes” and providing moving digital maps, force location data, threat awareness and pertinent intelligence information.

Threat identification is fundamental to EWPMT functions as it is fundamental to de-conflicting signals, combining a host of variables into an organized database to engender a complete rendering. Along these lines, EWPMT can also help “tailor” signals to identify a linear, more precise emission, less detectable to an enemy. Naturally, the larger the scope or envelope of an electronic signature, the more easily it can be found by an adversary.

“From a joint perspective, you want to understand your communications frequencies. Are you jamming what might be ‘your’ emissions? Can you put it all into one common picture to make sure all the services can play together to produce an outcome?” Polhamus explained.

The integration is made manifest, in large measure, due to an Army software system called Cyber Situational Understanding designed to “visualize and understand” Cyber Electromagnetic Activities and threats, service officials told Warrior.

“Cyber SU will ingest data and information from tactical sources, including the Distributed Common Ground System-Army, Electronic Warfare Planning and Management Tool and other tactical network systems. Analytic, visualization and correlation capabilities then transform data into useful information needed to achieve the commander's situational understanding of cyberspace, and provide a cyber common operational picture within the Command Post Computing Environment,” Paul Mehney, spokesman for the Army’s Program Executive Office C3T, told Warrior.

Mehney further explained that Cyber SU will be rolled out to units in the future on Tactical Server Infrastructure, or TSI, hardware and the latest CPCE software baseline; it will be ready for war alongside CPCE in 2022, he added.

EWPMT can operate out of a laptop or server stack configuration and the technology is now being finalized as part of a multi-function terrestrial layer for platforms such as Stryker vehicles. It is also built to sustain functionality in a GPS-denied environment and merge with newly emerging technologies designed to solidify Positioning, Navigation and Timing variables. To meet these requirements, EWPMT uses a chat function with technology to geolocate operational positions. The software can be set to provide “automated alerts” for users and also enable what’s called machine-to-machine interface wherein platforms can increasingly network signal-specific data across a dispersed battlefield.

“We need to support the breadth of all the types of EW systems and the types of waveforms they may produce. We offer a software development kit for developmental purposes to adapt to many different sensors. We can also add hardware,” he said.

The Army is already building multi-functional, cyber-enabled EW applications into large and small combat platforms, to include Stryker vehicles, small applications for the dismounted soldier and small drones.

At the moment, small EW-enabled small drones can be tethered to what’s called a Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport, Col. Sam Edwards, Director of Robotics Requirements, Capability Development Integration Directorate, Ft. Benning, Ga., told Warrior in an interview.

Edwards, an infantry officer, explained the cyber-EW synergy is quickly multiplying mission possibilities and changing the tactical landscape.

“Now you have something up in the air and it is giving you more range as well as looking at the realm of the possible,” Edwards said.

Building upon these kinds of applications, the Army is now already experimenting with the possibility of flying autonomous, EW-empowered drones. “It is a goal we are experimenting with, using a modular mission payload,” Edwards added.

Raytheon engineers have been working to anticipate this emerging Army requirement by working to expand the mission applications for EWPMT and EW sensors.

“We have added modeling and simulation to focus on the remote control of EW sensors for dismounted and mounted capabilities,” Polhamus said. Some of these adaptations are woven into Raytheon’s “4th capability drop” technical upgrades now going through operational testing.

-- Kris Osborn is the Managing Editor of Warrior Maven and The Defense Editor of The National Interest --

Kris Osborn is defense editor for the National Interest*. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.*

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