Sponsored by Spectra Cyber Security Solutions
21 Mar 17. In the wake of Russia’s demonstrations of advanced electromagnetic spectrum and communications jamming capabilities, most recently displayed in their incursion into Ukraine, China also is upping its game in this space, demonstrating similar capabilities in the Pacific. The U.S. Department of Defense, in an annual report to Congress on China’s military and security developments, assessed that the country is placing greater importance upon EW, on par with traditional domains of warfare such as air, ground and maritime.
“The [People’s Liberation Army] sees EW as an important force multiplier, and would likely employ it in support of all combat arms and services during a conflict,” the 2016 report asserts. “The PLA’s EW units have conducted jamming and anti-jamming operations, testing the military’s understanding of EW weapons, equipment, and performance. This helped improve the military’s confidence in conducting force-on-force, real-equipment confrontation operations in simulated EW environments.”
According to the report, China’s EW weapons include “jamming equipment against multiple communication and radar systems and GPS satellite systems. EW systems are also being deployed with other sea- and air-based platforms intended for both offensive and defensive operations.”
According to some outside experts, the Chinese merge cyber and electronic warfare into a singular discipline.
“Electronic warfare, which in our system, has tended to be hived off into thinking about jamming and various other aspects,” Dean Cheng, a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation, said during a March 20 event at the think tank. “But for the Chinese has long been characterized as integrated network and electronic warfare. That the two are two sides of the same coin; one focusing on the data, the other on the electronic equipment.”
Similarly, a report published by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, a think tank in Tallinn, Estonia, unaffiliated with the multination defense alliance, explained that units within the People’s Liberation Army that were responsible for EW are now assuming the task of computer network operations.
The PLA, in line with the Chinese historic understanding of information as the key to victory, the report stated, has focused on countering American C4ISR systems through GPS jamming, Joint Tactical Information Distribution System countermeasures and synthetic radar jamming. These capabilities would be coordinated with computer network attack tools for a more holistic and complete attack against an adversary’s command networks, the report said.
When assessing the capabilities of certain actors in this space, it is important to distinguish their capabilities from how they are used. “Their technical capabilities aren’t limited to them because they’ll sell those technical capabilities to someone else, as will China, as will other folks,” John Willison, director of the Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center’s Space and Terrestrial Communications Directorate, told C4ISRNET over the summer on the sidelines of the TechNet Augusta conference.
“We’ve got to factor that in that those capabilities won’t be limited. Now the way they fight is a different perspective and the theater is a different perspective as well.”
“When a lot of people talk about threats they talk about box on box — we’ve got a box and they’ve got a box; good starting point,” Willison added. “How are those boxes deployed? What’s the quantity? What other things do they work with?”
Officials within the DoD declined to comment or offer many specifics regarding China’s capabilities in this domain or the threat that the United States says they pose to the region. China does “have an electronic warfare capability that we re