Battlespace Tech

Air Force looks to boost its EW capabilities

In an attempt to catch up with the technologies being employed in electronic warfare, the Air Force has issued a solicitation looking for an electronic warfare test kit in which it can test and simulate certain EW prototypes. The tests will involve evaluating certain waveforms and record jammer responses.

Electronic warfare, a highly technical and scientific craft, can be defined as using “focused energy, usually radio waves or laser light, to confuse or disable an enemy's electronics. It can also involve listening —collecting an enemy's radio signals or sensing the radar of an incoming missile,” according to contractor Raytheon, whose work in the field includes the Navy’s Next Generation Jammer.

AFRL’s test kit would also include an automated software tool that creates realistic radar and background emitters. The kit also should have the capability to analyze raw digitized data captured from the stimulus and the response, both individually and simultaneously, the solicitation stated. The signal analysis tool will allow users to examine spectral and temporal behavior.       

Electronic warfare, an increasingly common feature of modern conflicts, has been extremely prevalent in the current conflict in Ukraine, with Russian-backed separatists utilizing advanced radar jamming tools and capabilities. These capabilities have forced U.S. military and policy makers to reassess the U.S.’s EW capabilities against potential peer rivals after a decade and a half battling enemies in the Middle East that were significantly technologically inferior. 

“Our biggest problem is we have not fought in a comms-degraded environment for decades, so we don't know how to do it,” Laurie Buckhout, former chief of the Army's electronic warfare division, told Defense News. “We lack not only tactics, techniques and procedures but the training to fight in a comms-degraded environment.”

“We have great signals intelligence, and we can listen all day long, but we can't shut them down one-tenth to the degree they can us…We are very unprotected from their attacks on our network,” she added.

The Army has also struggled to construct EW capabilities with plans for an offensive jammer not slated until 2023.

Response date for AFRL’s solicitation is Sept. 8.

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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