THE EFFECTIVE DEPLOYMENT OF ELECTRONIC WARFARE
By Gavin O’Connell MBE, Business Development Manager, Roke Manor Research
The last ten years have seen coalition forces engaged in counter insurgency operations. This environment has presented a number of challenges for the Electronic Warfare community, particularly in support of the land component.
Electronic Warfare assets have traditionally been deployed at higher levels of command, where gathered intelligence was used to help with more holistic strategic decision making. While this was suitable for a ‘slower burn’ battle rhythm, the experience of counter insurgency situations, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, required a move to decentralise those assets and put them under control of the ground commanders.
As the field of operation changes quickly and terrain is difficult, a high intensity situation is now the norm, where multiple issues must be quickly addressed by troops on the ground. Therefore, it is no longer acceptable for Electronic Warfare systems to sit at an operational HQ, completely delineated from tactical reality. Commanders at Company and even Platoon level need access to timely intelligence so that they can apply it to the context of their immediate situation.
This requires both new systems and new methods of deployment to more effectively fight this completely asymmetric battle. Electronic Warfare systems have therefore developed to provide the primary function of intelligence gathering for both force protection and force projection.
Traditionally Electronic Warfare systems were integrated onto large platforms, both static and vehicle-based. However, a counter insurgency environment creates situations where the battle is omnipresent for troops, meaning such valuable assets are continually in harm’s way. This, coupled with the increased terrain complexity, and the challenges associated with the urban environment has created a demand for highly flexible systems that can be deployed as far forward as possible.
Land and littoral Electronic Warfare operations in today’s battle space therefore require intuitive, lightweight and rapidly deployable manpack systems to monitor the diverse and constantly changing tactical environment. Man-packable, full-suite Electronic Warfare systems have therefore been designed to be highly portable, so that they can be configured and adapted in the field to meet the requirements of specific users and mission profiles.
An effective Electronic Warfare solution should therefore perform three distinct functions with associated levels of functionality to deliver the required flexibility in deployment. For example, a scalable system that can be used static, on vehicles of opportunity, or on-the-march, providing the war-fighter with an immediate threat warning capability. While the latter example will perform vital functions for dismounted troops patrolling on foot, it will not have the full capacity of a static environment.
Using one portable sensor node, troops can get a line of bearing on targets of interest. With three nodes networked, the full geolocation of hostile targets can be accomplished. Such a modular system can be operated standalone or as a networked multi-node baseline, either in pre-deployed configurations or for single-user on-the-march operations. Mounting systems into fighting vehicles is also a necessity, particularly when operating in an urban environment where multipath issues pose significant challenges to static based systems. In all cases this gives greater flexibility and a distinct advantage for dismounted troops using the system.
To maximise flexibility and functionality for troops in the field, the key requirements for such sophisticated systems are therefore:
* Scalable for operations on the march, static or mounted on platforms of opportunity;
* A modular system which provides Electronic Surveillance and Electronic Attack enabling the user to balance communications exploitation and