Aerospace and Defense Channel

Spiral Upgrades, Modularity and Integration Dictate Future EW Systems

Strategy Analytics is at the Electronic Warfare 2012 Conference & Exhibition this week in Rome, Italy where this year’s theme is "Electromagnetic Operations in a Complex Environment", so the topic for this month’s article focuses on our thoughts for land-based EW system trends.

When the US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, the Army had very little capability to jam remote controlled improvised explosive devices (RCIED), and the first jammers to arrive on the battlefield were frequency-specific and thus easily defeated. Similar problems continued in Iraq for several years after the March 2003 invasion.  The proliferation of improvised explosive devices (IED) in Afghanistan and Iraq created a sense of tactical urgency, leading to a greater allocation of resources to counter this weapon.  The Pentagon responded with a multitude of stop-gap jammers designed for specific threats.

At the same time, the growing importance of land EW led to a strategic future-oriented focus. The Army Chief of Staff established the Army IED Task Force in October 2003. Then Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz, later transformed this into the Joint IED Task Force, and in February 2006, it was converted into the permanent Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO).

While the first generation of stop-gap jammers were developed and delivered to the battlefield relatively quickly, they could not be easily modified to counter the evolving RCIEDs and enemy tactics. The second generation of jammers could cover a broad range of frequencies, had more sophisticated signal response techniques and caused less interference with other jammers and the Army’s communications gear.

An example of this is the Counter-Radio Controlled Improvised Explosive Device Electronic Warfare (CREW 2.1) from ITT Electronic Systems Force Protection Systems group, also known as the CREW 2.1 Vehicle Receiver Jammer. In 2008, development and testing emphasized the spiral enhancements approach for mounted and dismounted systems, including the Combined Vehicle Radio Jammer (CVRJ). Over 8000 CVRJs were manufactured by the end of FY08, and 5600 were installed on Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles and other deployed vehicles.

The spiral development model recognized that the RCEID-intensive irregular warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq required an iterative development process with fielding of Version 1 while requirements were defined and developments planned for Version 2. This has resulted in the development of Joint CREW (JCREW) 3.X, for which JIEDDO funded development and testing of three initiatives:

  • 3.1 is a man-portable system manufactured by Sierra Nevada Corp.
  • 3.2 is vehicle-mounted (i.e., HMMWV, MRAP) and manufactured by ITT Advanced Engineering & Sciences
  • 3.3 is a system-of-systems of mounted, man-portable, and fixed-installation versions from ITT Electronic Systems Force Protection Systems group.

These share a common open architecture and are designed to be networked and communicate over the Army’s wireless battlefield networks.

DARPA also takes a long-term approach, and several of its offices are conducting research that could be applied to future land EW systems. For example, the Strategic Technology Office’s Precision Electronic Warfare Program mission is to develop and demonstrate low cost, small (size, weight, and power) distributed EW platforms for precise communications jamming. The Information Innovation Office’s Behavioural Learning for Adaptive Electronic Warfare Program is developing new machine learning algorithms and techniques for the rapid detection and characterization of new radio threats, dynamic synthesis of countermeasures and accurate EA battle damage assessment.

Going forward, military forces will need to demand flexibility, power, modularity and portability for land EW digital receivers and other systems and components. This will become increasingly important in the network-centric environment, resulting in a greater emphasis on tools to enhance situational awareness and survivability. The trends toward asymmetric conflict and the hybridization of conventional warfare and asymmetric conflict, especially when it occurs in foot soldier intensive urban combat, will further drive this requirement. The decentralized control of ISR and EW assets is also a central tenet of COIN (counter-insurgency) doctrine, which itself depends on modular, flexible, portable and integrated forces.

The effective deployment of counter-IED systems is particular challenging because while soldiers and vehicles are on the move, IEDs are either in fixed positions and thus not always a nearby threat, or mobile and thus difficult to predict when they will be nearby and quickly become a threat. In other words, the jammer may not always be where it is needed at the right time. One possible solution, being investigated by Sky Industries in Canada, is real-time in-situ estimation of counter-IED ECM protection range so the ECM protection bubble (jammer) is always where it is needed (and not where it is not needed). This approach requires networked interaction between the protected asset and the ECM system.

Roke Manor Research received the Queen's Awards for Enterprise and Innovation in 2011 for the company’s modular man-pack EW system, RESOLVE. The company has emphasized the need to maintain a holistic approach to EW while optimizing systems for dismounted, close support operations. Synchronization with ISTAR assets as part of the “Sensor – Decider – Shooter” chain is also a priority.

SELEX Galileo also demonstrates the prominence of modularity and integration with its Mobile Electronic Warfare Platform (MEWP). An integrated solution for communications and non-communications tactical EW, it can be configured for EA or ES roles. It is a self-contained unit with integral EW sub-systems, communications, power and environmental control.

Underpinning these trends for future EW systems will be RF technologies, such as GaN, to meet the requirements of wideband, high power capabilities. This will enablefurther digitization of the RF chain by allowing a “no-channel” concept to be realised, in which the systems can look at the complete frequency range. As has been mentioned in previous columns, Strategy Analytics believes phased arrays will also play a growing part in future EW systems potentially allowing both COMINT and radar capabilities to be combined. At the digital interface, ADCs will need to provide higher sample rates and higher dynamic rangewhich will in turn drive demand for FPGAs as the demands on digital processing increase.

It will be interesting to see whether these trends are reflected at the this space!

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