Sponsored by Spectra Group
07 Apr 21. Advanced Bittium Tactical Management Suite™ Enables Easy and Secure Management of Bittium’s Tactical Communication Devices and Networks. Tactical communications forerunner Bittium launches advanced Bittium Tactical Management Suite™ including Bittium Tactical Device Management™ and Bittium Tactical Network Management™ systems. The systems enable easy and secure management of Bittium’s tactical communication devices and networks prior, during and after deployment.
Bittium Tactical Device Management is an advanced system that enables secure deployment and operative use for the tactical communication devices. With the system, different defense forces can maintain sovereign, centralized, and efficient control over Bittium’s tactical devices. The system enables preparation of the devices for operative use, including commissioning, software updates, and key management. After the devices have been deployed, the system operator can monitor and manage the devices remotely over a secure connection.
Bittium Tactical Network Management is an easy-to-use and visual system for managing Bittium’s tactical communication networks and network nodes, including Bittium Tactical Wireless IP Network™, Bittium Tough SDR™, and Bittium Tough Comnode™. Different defense forces can use the system’s tools for planning the locations of the networks and their nodes so that optimal network performance can be achieved. When the networks are in operative use, the system provides a real-time and reliable status view of network operation and node configurations. The data collected from the networks and nodes during operative use is recorded and it can be easily analyzed. This enables optimizing the network performance for upcoming operations.
“Our aim is to offer tactical communication products and systems that provide the world’s best performance and are interoperable, easy-to-use, and highly secure. The systems included in the Bittium Tactical Management Suite are excellent additions to our product portfolio. Our customers benefit from improved operative efficiency and they can be certain that the information security is in their own hands,” says Jari Sankala, Senior Vice President of Bittium’s Defense & Security product and service area.
06 Apr 21. Parsons’ GreenFish™ Unlocks the All-Domain Battlespace. QRC® Technologies, a Parsons Corporation (NYSE: PSN) subsidiary, is proud to launch the latest solution to unlock the digital battlespace for the U.S. Department of Defense and global allies. GreenFish™ is a small form factor spectrum awareness offering that exposes hidden insights from radio frequency (RF) spectrum observations through artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and digital signal processing techniques.
This technology enables the discovery of both known and unknown signals across the operational battlespace, increasing the force’s decision advantage. GreenFish uses machine learning to associate patterns in the electromagnetic spectrum allowing for user-defined signal tagging. The product supports online learning and knowledge-sharing capabilities between connected units, facilitating a system of sensors approach to combat operations.
“The moment GreenFish enters the battlespace, it commences fully autonomous detection and measurement of high-speed-high-pulse count signals providing full insights into the complete digital environment,” said Mark Coleman, vice president and general manager of QRC® Technologies. “GreenFish accelerates the warfighter’s decision-making processes and increases actionable intelligence and mission success by extracting data, pairing it with a swarm of graphics processing units, and using intelligent agents to assemble the fragments needed for rapid mission success.”
As the system learns how to detect new signals, the learned detection capabilities are quickly transferred between systems by minimal data transfer, ensuring consistent spectrum awareness across a larger area of combat operations. The artificial intelligence components extend the capabilities of the mission operator.
GreenFish provides a radio frequency layer to common operating pictures for web-sharable visualizations through open architecture and web-based communications standards. The solution includes AI-based signal processing, low size, weight, and power (SWaP) impact; transferable knowledge base; continuous spectrum sampling and learning; agile emitter detection; known and unknown signal discovery; alerts to specific signals or signatures; and a 3D spectrogram viewer.
A single GreenFish can function as a force protection, signals collection, and lightweight electronic warfare system based on configuration. (Source: PR Newswire)
06 Apr 21. US Cyber Command looks for networking support from industry. U.S. Cyber Command is looking for contractor support to expand a secure file-sharing tool used to pass sensitive data to government and private-sector partners without being compromised.
The tool, called WOLFDOOR, was created in 2018 and is a boundary solution to move data securely from Cyber Command to the Intelligence Community, Department of Defense and commercial networks.
Cyber Command is interested in potential vendor solutions to expand the tool’s infrastructure to meet growing mission needs and increases in data flow requests, according to a request for information notice posted April 6 to a federal contracting website.
Specifically, prospective contractors could help maintain, replicate and expand the data-sharing infrastructure to support mission systems. Cyber Command wants a contractor to improve the system’s security to eliminate support staff redundancy at multiple locations, while providing scalability and increased security support for various sites. The command also requested that the contractor be able to address unanticipated requirements, such as engineering, design, integration, sustainment and documentation.
Additional support outlined includes technical assistance to design, deploy and implement network security components, such as firewalls, switches and virtual private networks. (Source: Defense News)
06 Apr 21. UK MOD Front Line Commands set to benefit from new decision support capability that replaces former Niteworks service. The Aurora Engineering Partnership confirmed the introduction of a collaborative and agile new service to drive innovation and address complex defence challenges for the UK MOD.
Working in partnership with the DE&S Future Capability Group (FCG), this latest contract amendment will result in the former Niteworks service being replaced with new capabilities and expertise as part of the Engineering Delivery Partner (EDP) programme.
The new service will be delivered under the name Futures Lab, powered by EDP, with the Aurora Engineering Partnership working in collaboration with FCG to maximise innovation and exploitation of new technologies and capabilities on the front line. This move puts the Aurora Engineering Partnership at the forefront of some of the MOD’s most important and innovative projects and programmes.
Originally established by the Ministry of Defence, Niteworks aimed to provide a commercially neutral environment for addressing complex defence challenges through a partnership between MOD, industry and academia. The new service will maintain the critical, successful elements of Niteworks, whilst harnessing the successfully established EDP approach to provide tangible support, insight and substantial benefits for Front Line Commands early in the acquisition cycle, all for a lower cost.
Futures Lab will bring together EDP’s existing network of small and medium enterprise providers, but will be strengthened with the addition of more technology and research based organisations. The new service will include Aurora domain-based leaders who will be working alongside FCG, into the Front Line Commands, to develop the tasks and to lead on the exploitation and knowledge management of the insights gained.
The Head of FCG, James Gavin, said, “we are looking forward to Futures Lab delivering direct benefit for the Front-Line Command customers, but also the value to Industry stakeholders in that it will help the MOD focus its capability investment more productively and more rapidly towards exploitable capabilities. As we have with EDP, we will now be progressively expanding and developing our capabilities and approached to fulfil the unique support requirements of the UK’s Front Line Commands,” says Simon Galt, Managing Director of the Aurora Engineering Partnership. “Significantly, this will take full advantage of our dedicated procurement processes and exemplary approach for exchanging ideas, reducing frictional bidding costs and providing Micro and SME companies a platform to deliver their critical thinking into DE&S and the Front Line Commands. Such a responsive service model, supported by our highly effective Provider Network, is crucial for the effective identification, assessment and deployment of emerging technologies and capabilities. It will also help to reduce risk while delivering advantages in performance, cost and time in the procurement cycle.”
The EDP programme was established in 2018 as a £2.5Bn 10-year contract for engineering services to complement the outstanding engineering capability of the in-house engineering workforce. Dr Jonathan Cook, Head of the DE&S Engineering Function says “EDP is now the default route to market for our contracted engineering services and is a great example of an effective public-private sector partnership. It is already delivering significant financial savings, minimising delays and acting as a catalyst for innovation. Providing capacity and capability across all engineering service areas, this programme is also simplifying and increasing the engagement of smaller and specialist enterprises within and beyond the traditional defence sector supply chain”.
- The Engineering Delivering Partner (EDP) programme is the established default route for contracted engineering services for DE&S and is available for use by the wider MOD community. It is a collaborative, progressive and agile programme that accesses the right skills, expertise and resources to ensure the UK’s Armed Forces and Front Line Commands receive the best equipment and support.
- The programme provides capacity and capability across all service areas and focuses on output-based and longer-term outcomes to maximise efficiencies, operational performance and innovation. EDP is delivered by the Aurora Engineering Partnership.
- QinetiQ, Atkins and BMT have joined forces to form The Aurora Engineering Partnership. This brings together considerable cross-sector and non-defence experience, supported by world class provider network of specialist providers. All parties committed to implementing longer-term, output-based programmes for engineering services over the 10 year contract.
05 Apr 21. BAE Systems Successfully Tests SABER Technology for Compass Call Upgrade. Teams from BAE Systems and the U.S. Air Force conducted tests of SABER on 11 flights of an EC-130H from Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, paving the way for a critical software upgrade to the EC-37B Compass Call. Image credit: BAE Systems
BAE Systems successfully flight tested its Small Adaptive Bank of Electronic Resources (SABER) technology, paving the way for a critical software upgrade to the EC-37B Compass Call, a next-generation electronic warfare aircraft. Teams from both BAE Systems and the U.S. Air Force conducted tests on 11 flights of an EC-130H from Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. The SABER system is a major technological advance – transitioning from hardware to software-based electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) warfare capability for the U.S. Air Force and its Compass Call weapon system. The system is built on a suite of software defined radios using an open system architecture and will provide the backbone of the EC-37B’s operating system.
“SABER allows flexibility to update systems without significant physical reconfiguration,” said Pam Potter, director of Electronic Attack Solutions at BAE Systems. “It also adapts to new applications as well as revisions to existing applications. It is the technology that will enable the U.S. Air Force to rapidly and proactively respond to emerging enemy threat systems.”
SABER complies with Department of Defense standards to embed protective measures during product design, as well as leverages an open architecture to enable hosting of various government contracted applications.
Additional SABER testing in 2021 will focus on simultaneity of engagement capacity, dynamic resource sharing, rapid integration, and operation of multiple additional applications.
Work on SABER is being conducted at BAE Systems’ state-of-the-art facility in Hudson, N.H. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
03 Apr 21. Pentagon seeks commercial solutions to get its data ready for AI. The Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center is recruiting businesses to help prepare military data for use with AI.
The solicitation released March 31 is a sign of the AI office’s shifting role from product developer to provider of AI readiness services for Defense Department components. The basic ordering agreement would allow those components and federal partners to issue task orders for the work to get data in shape for artificial intelligence — that could include everything from capturing data to sorting it for storage to modeling how employees will use it with AI to get better insights.
The Data Readiness for Artificial Intelligence Development (DRAID) Services ordering agreement will “help the DoD and Government users prepare data for use in AI applications by providing an easily accessible path to access the cutting-edge commercial services needed to meet the complex technical challenges involved in preparing data for AI,” the solicitation read.
“The services addressed by the DRAID span the entire AI data preparation lifecycle, from data ingestion, through labeling, right up to before model training begins,” an April 1 blog post from the JAIC states. “Through access to these services, the DoD will be positioned to effectively prepare AI data to support the full range of AI activities across the DoD and do so in a responsible manner.”
Task orders under the basic ordering agreement will fall under these areas:
- Project and program management
- Data science
- Data engineering
- Data architecture
- Data acquisition and curation
- Data quality and analysis
- Synthetic data generation and data anonymization
- Software development, modification and configuration
- Enterprise information management and governance
- Cloud integration and alignment
The JAIC requires that all AI data created through the agreement adheres to published government standards so the data is interoperable with other cloud and AI development platforms across the department.
“DoD AI data services acquired or developed under this PWS [performance work statement] and data processed by those services will frequently be required to integrate and interoperate with new or existing AI cloud platforms. … In most cases, AI data produced under this BOA will be required to be made available on cloud platforms for reuse in other AI projects,” the PWS says.
The BOA will remain active for five years.
The JAIC blog post about the agreement emphasized that the organization took steps to ensure the RFP could attract nontraditional contractors, such as startups. The solicitation includes an accessibility guide outlining preliminary steps new contractors have to take before responding, while also highlighting revisions the JAIC made to the draft RFP to make it more inclusive for new vendors. For example, the blog says JAIC reformed experience requirements to be more inclusive of startups and other nontraditional contractors.
“In developing the DRAID, we have taken effort to ensure that the best providers — regardless if this is their 1st or 101st time interacting with the Federal government — will be able to participate in the RFP process,” the request stated.
The RFP asks for technologies that support ethical use of AI, including a solutions that would contractors to demonstrate how products integrate the DoD’s AI ethical principles.
“The quality of the AI data determines the quality of the resulting AI system,” the blog post stated. “With the DRAID, the JAIC seeks to leverage the American commercial enterprise to create a strong foundation of AI-ready data for the DoD.” (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
05 Apr 21. US Army leaders eye tactical cloud network applications. US Army leaders are working potential options to drive cloud-computing capabilities down to deployed combat formations, as part of an overall effort by the US armed forces to push advanced computing and networking capabilities to the tactical edge.
The near-term focus of army information technology engineers on potential tactical-level cloud-computing options centres on the use of pre-programmed edge node-based networks, said US Army Brigadier General Robert Collins, the programme executive officer for the service’s Command, Control, and Communications – Tactical (C3T) directorate.
“Much like an operational unit deploys with a series of class three or class five supplies,” smaller, edge-node tactical cloud networks pre-programmed with “routinely accessed data that is stored at the edge, so they can retrieve, access, synthesise, and act on that data faster”, is one viable, near-term capability army leaders are eyeing for combat cloud computing, he said.
Army engineers are still analysing to determine the amount of data and types of data that would be beneficial for an edge-node tactical cloud network, he explained. “Is it forward in the edge cloud, or is it stored, for not as routinely accessed data?” Gen Collins said, referring to the type of ongoing analysis for tactical cloud integration. “We have tools within the network that can help define what types of data needs prioritised … be able to tag that data, have a network to recognise that data, and then have [network operations] tools” that can further define what data sets are applicable in a given combat scenario, Brig Gen Collins explained. (Source: Jane’s)
01 Apr 21. Smart Dart. IAI’s new EL/K-7065VU ComDart ESM uses innovative Vector Sensing Antenna techniques to determine the location of signals of interest. Israel Aerospace Industries has launched a new airborne COMINT system which uses innovative Vector Sensing Antenna techniques to find emitters. Launched in mid-February the EL/K-7065VU ComDart is the latest Communications Intelligence (COMINT) Electronic Support Measure (ESM) to grace the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) stable. Covering very/ultra high frequency wavebands of 30 megahertz/MHz to three gigahertz, the EL/K-7065VU is intended for space-constrained platforms like Uninhabited Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). IAI says that ComDart uses an innovative approach to locate emitters of interest in the form of a Vector Sensing Antenna (VSA).
TDOA and AOA
Traditionally, many ESMs use techniques like Angle of Arrival (AOA) and Time Difference of Arrival (TDOA) to find emitters. AOA will use two or more antennas which may be mounted on an aircraft’s fuselage or wings, on a ship’s mast or on a vehicle connected to an ESM. Each antenna will be capable of determining the bearing of an incoming signal. For instance, the emitter may be to the northeast of antenna A but to the northwest of antenna B. The point at which these two bearings cross, using the principle of triangulation, is where the emitter is located.
Likewise TDOA exploits an elegantly simple principle: Radio waves travel at 161,595 knots-per-second (299,274 kilometres-per-second). Let us suppose that an emitter is located 30 nautical miles/nm (16.2km) from antenna A but 20nm (10.8km) from antenna B. The signals from an emitter will take 0.0541 milliseconds/ms to reach antenna A, and 0.036ms to reach antenna B. Now imagine that you have drawn one ring around antenna A with a radius scaled to represent 30nm and one around antenna B with a scaled radius of 20nm. The point at which these two circles meet will be where the emitter is located. It does not matter how far or close the two antennas are from one another. As long as they are not located at exactly the same location, there will always be a difference in the time it takes the same signal to reach the antennas, albeit very small if they are very close together.
Both these techniques are reliable ways of determining where an emitter is, but in the air context, it can require two or more antennas to be placed on the airframe. The more antennas are used, the more reliable the determination of the emitter’s location. Using several antennas can be challenging if the ESM must outfit a diminutive airframe like a small uninhabited aerial vehicle. Where it is not possible to fit the multiple antennas on a single airframe to exploit TDOA/AOA techniques, “simultaneous detections from separate platforms are necessary to triangulate these angles and provide the location of the emitter on the map,” said IAI in a written statement provided to Armada: “Often, in practice, only a single platform is available, and legacy systems would need to move in space and rely on multiple communications from the emitter to provide a location. This is often difficult or impracticable to achieve.”
Vector Sensing Antenna
IAI has taken a different approach with ComDart using a Vector Sensor Antenna (VSA). According to IAI’s written statement the VSA uses a digital terrain map of the territory underneath and around the aircraft carrying the ESM. Meanwhile, the ESM will detect the bearing of the emitter of interest relative to the aircraft: “By calculating the point of intersection between this vector and a digital map of the terrain, an accurate two-dimensional geolocation is achieved,” says the company. One advantage of VSA architecture is that the “small size of the VSA as compared to TDOA or AOA antenna arrays, allows for installation on smaller platforms that cannot accommodate legacy technologies.” The antenna is circa 200mm by 300mm in size.
IAI is moving ahead with bringing the product to market: “We have finished development, and we are ready for full flight demonstrations.“ (Source: Armada)
01 Apr 21. Carry on up the Cyber! The British Army may finally acquire new backpack and vehicular EW systems to replace legacy assets it uses for this important mission.
Two new UK government papers show how the UK’s armed forces and the country’s wider defence industrial community will strive to win electromagnetic supremacy in future wars. Originally scheduled for publication in early 2020 the UK Government’s review of foreign and security policy entitled Global Britain in a Competitive Age finally hit the streets on 16th March. The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic caused publication to be delayed several times as government efforts were understandably directed elsewhere. The review articulates the UK’s foreign and security priorities three months after she finally crashed out of the European Union following the referendum of her continued membership in 2016.
Of particular interest to Armada is what the document says about the strategic, operational and tactical importance of the electromagnetic spectrum; an environment of ever-growing significance to the military and civilian worlds alike. In the review’s foreword Prime Minister Boris Johnson waxes lyrical on the need for the UK to gird herself for challenges in the cyber domains. The review promises that the country will be “one of the world’s leading democratic cyber powers.” Allied to this is a promise to ensure that the UK remains a leading science and technology power. This is a sine qua non if the country’s armed forces are to win and maintain Electromagnetic Superiority and Supremacy (E2S) in future conflicts.
National Cyber Force
Rightly, the document discusses the importance of protecting the country and British interests from cyberattack, but what about the UK’s ability to wage cyber warfare? The review highlights the National Cyber Force (NCF). Established in 2020, the NCF draws together experts from the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service, responsible for foreign intelligence gathering, the Ministry of Defence, the Government Communications Headquarters which collects Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) and the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory.
One of the roles mooted for the NCF, alongside disrupting the use of cellular communications for political violence and preventing the use of cyberspace for serious crime, is the role the NCF will play in “keeping UK military aircraft safe from targeting by weapons systems.” Is this a euphemism for cyberattack being harnessed against hostile Integrated Air Defence Systems (IADS) and deployed Ground-Based Air Defences (GBAD)? If so, this represents an important enhancement to the UK’s offensive counter-air capabilities at the operational and strategic levels. Future conflicts could see the NCF cyberattacking enemy IADS and GBAD in support of unilateral and multilateral operations.
The review says that the country will make offensive cyber capabilities available to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) under the terms of NATO’s Article Five. This clause of the Alliance’s founding North Atlantic Treaty pledges that an attack on one member is treated as an attack on all with the NCF’s offensive cyber capabilities being used to “to detect, disrupt and deter our adversaries.” Interestingly, the review reveals that the UK is now in possession of offensive cyber capabilities which have been built up over the past decade.
While Global Britain in a Competitive Age articulates the country’s strategic outlook, the Defence Command Paper, published several days later on 22nd March detailed the government’s procurement priorities: “The electromagnetic environment … is a fundamental aspect of the modern battlespace,” says the paper, warning that “our adversaries are increasingly active across it and rely on it. We must be able to understand, exploit and secure advantage in this environment.” Underscoring these concerns, the government will earmark $689m for “capabilities that will enable us to respond in the electromagnetic environment.” This will include $276m for the British Army to get new Electronic Warfare (EW) and SIGINT capabilities, along with new personnel who will fight in the electromagnetic spectrum.
This could mean the reactivation of the army’s dormant Landseeker programme. Landseeker was conceived in the wake of the earlier Soothsayer EW initiative. Soothsayer was cancelled in 2009 after costs rose to $333m in 2020 values. It was to have provided a light SIGINT collection capability, reportedly based on a Supacat six-wheel drive vehicle to equip the British Army’s element of the UK Joint Rapid Reaction Force along with the Royal Marines’ 30 Commando Information Exploitation Group. Soothsayer was also to have had a heavy element to outfit vehicles procured via the British Army’s former Future Rapid Effects System.
Getting Landseeker moving and into the hands of the troops is imperative if the UK’s desire to win and sustain E2S is to be underwritten, particularly in light of new EW capabilities rolled out across the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force in recent years. Another concern is that Landseeker in its current form appears solely focused on electronic support with no plans to supplement this with an electronic attack capability. This is a something which sources close to the British Army’s EW community say is desperately needed, particularly if cyber effects are going to be used on the battlefield at the operational and tactical levels, not only to support the British Army and sister services, but also to support allies during coalition operations. This has added impetus as the MOD published the UK’s CEMA (Cyber and Electromagnetic Activities) doctrine in 2018 framing how the UK would manoeuvre in the spectrum.
To summarise, the British Army has circa $270m to procure these mooted EW capabilities, once one removes circa $5m to cover the promised recruitment of new CEMA cadres. Soothsayer was cancelled after its costs reached $333m. The army has less money to play with to procure a capability that will must eclipse the SIGINT-only remit of Landseeker, if the force is to acquire the wherewithal for electronic attack. Russia is the security challenge which both documents do not shirk from highlighting. She is performing her own important enhancements in digital command and control. Thus one struggles to see how the British Army could achieve E2S without such a capability? Yet desiring electronic attack from Landseeker’s successor risks adding significant costs, potentially beyond the $270m expected to be available. How will this capability be secured on budget? By seeking to procure EW platforms from the UK’s French and US allies, both of which are furnishing their armies with new electronic attack capabilities? Through the domestic development of such assets, or through a hybrid approach where the UK buys systems from abroad, before configuring them for local requirements? A government seeking to keep the UK defence science and technology base invigorated, while balancing the books may decide that the latter option is preferable.
This defence science and technology base could be integral to the acquisition of such capabilities. The Global Britain publication says that this sector could get a fillip with the establishment of the Advanced Research and Inventions Agency (ARIA), modelled on the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency. This will perform high-risk “breakthrough” research which could yield innovations helping the UK’s armed forces’ quest to win E2S. Another important aspect will be the establishment of the National Security Strategic Investment Fund and the National Security and Technology Information Exchange. Both these government initiatives are to exploit dual-use technologies and to drive forward efforts like Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI is fast emerging as one of the most important technologies in electronic warfare. Likewise, quantum computing holds promise for EW applications and could benefit from the efforts of the National Quantum Computing Centre and the National Quantum Technologies Programme.
Released back-to-back, both the Defence Command Paper and the review are clear statements of how the UK’s armed forces will fight and prevail in the electromagnetic spectrum. Building on the CEMA Joint Doctrine Note, both these new publications show the direction of travel for the UK’s desire to win and secure E2S in tomorrow’s battles. Now the hard work begins. With intentions explained the government must secure the people and assets such desires demand. (Source: Armada)
01 Apr 21. Radioflash! The sky is ablaze with the flash of the Starfish Prime nuclear test as seen from Hawaii. The test, performed hundreds of kilometres away, had a significant effect on electrical systems in the archipelago. Unleashing the power of the electromagnetic pulse could be devastating for critical national infrastructure. Rafael’s news put the EMP threat into sharp relief. The EMP was an ever-present concern during the Cold War. The British Broadcasting Corporation’s chilling 1984 docudrama Threads depicted the devastating effects of a nuclear war on the United Kingdom through the prism of a nuclear attack on the city of Sheffield, northern England.
Shortly before the salvo of Soviet weapons visits atomic fury on the British Isles, nuclear weapons are detonated hundreds of miles above the country. In the film, these detonations were performed to exploit the EMP phenomena accompanying nuclear explosions.
The EMP is a powerful burst of electromagnetic radiation accompanying a nuclear blast. It is dangerous to electronics as the pulse can be conducted by antennas or power lines, for example, into equipment. The EMP can cause voltage surges in electronics which maybe powerful enough to significantly damage their circuitry.
In nuclear combat, using an EMP shortly before the arrival of the first salvo of weapons could damage the electronic equipment of one’s opponent. This may hamper their ability to retaliate, and to coordinate civil defence efforts in response to the catastrophic damage the incoming attack will cause. To put matters into perspective, open sources say that an EMP can have an equivalent power to 20,000 volts per metre (three feet), easily overloading consumer and industrial circuit breakers and safety equipment.
Rafael recently concluded a sale of its EMP-protected BNET LMR transceivers to a power company in the United States.
The power of the EMP was demonstrated time and again during the Cold War. Numerous nuclear tests performed by east and west studied the EMP. In July 1962 a US nuclear test codenamed Starfish Prime saw a W-49 1.44 megaton/MT (one megaton is equal to one million tonnes of conventional explosive) warhead lofted into space atop a Douglas PGM-17 Thor intermediate range ballistic missile.
The warhead detonated over the Pacific Ocean at an altitude of 217 nautical miles/nm (402 kilometres/km). The resulting EMP reached Hawaii, a distance of 782 nautical miles (1,448km) from the explosion. Street lights were damaged, burglar alarms activated and telephone microwave links severally disrupted. The US referred to this phenomena as a High Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (HEMP) with the British calling it ‘radioflash’.
The Soviet Union also witnessed HEMP effects. On 30th October 1963 she detonated the AN-602 Tsar Bomba (King of Bombs) 57MT nuclear gravity bomb above the Novaya Zemlya archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. This remains the largest explosion in human history. Soviet sources said the blast was so powerful that the EMP caused disruption to radio communications several hundred kilometres from ground zero for almost one hour after the blast.
The end of the Cold War has not meant the end of the EMP threat. Nuclear weapons are owned by a handful of countries around the world. The strategic edge that the EMP brings to nuclear combat will be as integral to those states’ nuclear warfighting plans as they were during the Cold War. Meanwhile, the dependence that the military and civilian worlds alike have on electronics and communications will only deepen in the future. More people and organisations will enjoy the benefits emerging wireless communications protocols like 5G (fifth generation) and the Internet of Things will bring. The latter will see increasing connectivity of appliances beyond computing and communications systems.
Electronics can be protected against the EMP through shielding, a process known as ‘hardening’. This prevents the entry of the energy accompanying the EMP which could wreck circuitry. However, hardening can be expensive and is often reserved for military systems. Even key CNI nodes may lack this protection. Cost imperatives mean there will be multitudes of businesses and organisations with unhardened electronics which could find their operations badly disrupted by an EMP event, even if they are hundreds of miles from the epicentre, as events in Hawaii almost 60 years ago demonstrated.
Black Sky Hazard
This so-called ‘Black Sky Hazard’ should concentrate minds. As these nuclear explosions would be performed at very high altitude, accompanying bursts of electromagnetic radiation could range hundreds of kilometres beyond the detonation.
The Black Sky Hazards Resource Guide, published by the EIS Council, an international advocacy organisation raising awareness of the threat to electrical infrastructure from the EMP, highlights the danger an electromagnetic pulse event could have to CNI. The report says that the EMP has two parts: ‘E1’ is a very short burst of electromagnetic radiation, microseconds long, that would affect unshielded electronics. The E3 component could last several minutes and wreck unprotected high voltage electrical infrastructure like power lines, substations and switching yards causing major power cuts.
National electricity grids could be badly damaged by these E3 power surges. One does not have to think too hard about the severe disruption that even a short power cut brings to a town, city or region. The report says that damage to the electricity grid caused by the EMP would take time to repair. It warns that “the resulting breakdown of water, wastewater and food processing and delivery systems would lead to millions of deaths from dehydration, starvation and disease.” This would result from damage to the grid causing “cascading failures of all other lifeline infrastructures in those regions: Tap water, functioning toilets and sewage systems, food production and delivery, pharmaceutical supplies, communication, transportation, local and national security and distribution of all normally-available products and services would come to a halt.”
A scenario mooted by the report is one where a country chooses to detonate one or several warheads high above its adversary, but does not follow this with a salvo of nuclear weapons against strategic targets. The high altitude detonations could cause major CNI damage through the EMP, but no direct physical damage. This would place the country suffering the attack in a quandary: It would have just experienced a nuclear attack, albeit one in which the weapons themselves were not targeted against specific aim points. If that state also possessed nuclear weapons would this justify a retaliatory nuclear attack against the aggressor’s strategic targets, or only a response in kind? Regarding the latter, with both countries having now performed devastating EMP attacks above one another, would the next frightful step not be a nuclear exchange?
The repercussions of such an attack on CNI maybe blamed by the affected population on their own government, particularly if the attack causes widespread disruption and recovery efforts are slow and badly coordinated: “Failures to deal with the attack become the failures of the targeted government,” warns Lord Toby Harris, chair of the UK’s national preparedness committee and, until recently, UK coordinator for the EIS Council.
The report argues that such scenarios should be taken seriously: “Adversary countries or terrorist organizations with access to a small number of nuclear warheads may choose this mode of attack, rather than using their limited arsenal on a small number of ground targets. There is evidence that both North Korea and Iran have developed such plans.” Lord Harris believes that it is unlikely a non-state actor like an insurgent group or doomsday cult would mount such an attack. Quite simply, they may be unable to source the considerable nuclear technology this would need: “It would be difficult for an insurgent group but easier for a rogue nation,” says Lord Harris: “They could have the capacity to get the rocket into the air and deliver the explosion.”
An EMP attack with a nuclear weapon could be tightly focused and controlled according to the aggressor’s desired effect, he continues. The aggressor could decide how big an area they wished to affect, and how serious they wanted the damage to be by varying the power and altitude of the blast.
Lord Harris believes that EMP dangers should not be seen in isolation from other potential threats to electricity generation and distribution infrastructure such as cyberattack and Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs). CMEs are large ejections of plasma and magnetic energy from the sun often following solar flares. In 1859 a CME was blamed for causing widespread disruption to the US and European telegraph networks. Telegraph cables absorbed the energy damaging connected apparatus. Known as the Carrington Event, after its observation by the British astronomer Richard Carrington, the disruption wrought by this CME indicates its disruptive potential for unprotected electricity grids. Lord Harris says that protective measures to harden grids against CMEs may have relevance in helping protect these same grids against EMPs: “We need to not only think about what we need to do to mitigate the threat of an EMP attack but what we need to do to harden our electricity grid against threats like CMEs or cyberattacks.” Sales of hardened BNET LMRs are a step in the right direction, but the EMP threat, along with the other dangers highlighted by Lord Harris are not something that should be treated with complacency. (Source: Armada)
Spectra Group Plc
Spectra Group (UK) Ltd, internationally renowned award-winning information security and communications specialist with a proven record of accomplishment.
Spectra is a dynamic, agile and security-accredited organisation that offers secure Hosted and Managed Solutions and Cyber Advisory Services with a track record of delivering on time, to spec and on budget.
With over 15 years of experience in delivering solutions for governments around the globe, elite militaries and private enterprises of all sizes, Spectra’s platinum and gold-level partnerships with third-party vendors ensure the supply of best value leading-edge technology.
Spectra was awarded the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise (Innovation) in 2019 for SlingShot.
In November 2017, Spectra Group (UK) Ltd announced its listing as a Top 100 Government SME Supplier by the UK Crown Commercial Services.
Spectra’s CEO, Simon Davies, was awarded 2017 Businessman of the Year by Battlespace magazine.
Founded in 2002, the Company is based in Hereford, UK and holds ISO 9001:2015, ISO 27001:2013 and Cyber Essentials Plus accreditation.