Electronic Warfare -Trends – Time For India to Become Atamnirbhar

anil chopra, air power asia, Electronic Warfare

Electronic warfare (EW) is any action involving the use of the electromagnetic spectrum (EM spectrum) or directing the energy to control or attack an enemy, or impede enemy use of EM spectrum. The purpose of electronic warfare is to deny the opponent the advantage of, and ensure friendly unimpeded access to, the EM spectrum. EW can be applied from air, sea, land, and/or space by manned and unmanned systems, and can target humans, communications, radar, or other assets (military and civilian).

Image source: tactdb.blogspot.com

The Military EW Environment and Terms

          Military operations are executed in an information environment increasingly complicated by the electromagnetic spectrum. The need for military forces to have unimpeded access to and use of the electromagnetic environment creates vulnerabilities and opportunities for electronic warfare in support of military operations. Within the information operations construct, EW is an element of information warfare; more specifically, it is an element of offensive and defensive counter-information. Electronic attack (EA) is offensive use of EM energy, electronic defense (ED) and electronic surveillance (ES), electronic countermeasures (ECM), electronic protective measures (EPM) and electronic support measures (ESM) are some of terms that are indicative of the total environmental action. Besides EW, other EM operations include intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) and signals intelligence (SIGINT). Each country has an EW policy and doctrine.

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Primary EW Activities

          Primary EW activities are in electro-optical; infrared and radio frequency countermeasures; and involves EM compatibility and deception; radio jamming; radar jamming and deception and electronic counter-countermeasures (or anti-jamming); electronic masking, probing, reconnaissance, and intelligence; electronic security; EW reprogramming; emission control; spectrum management; and wartime reserve modes.

Image Source: slideshare.net

Electronic Attack

          Electronic attack (EA), or electronic countermeasures (ECM)) involves the offensive use of EM energy, directed energy, or anti-radiation weapons to attack personnel, facilities, or equipment with the intent of degrading, neutralizing, or destroying enemy combat capability including human life. In the case of EM energy, this action is most commonly referred to as “jamming” and can be performed on communications systems or radar systems. In the case of anti-radiation weapons, many times this includes missiles or bombs that can home in on a specific signal (radio or radar) and follow that path directly to impact, thus destroying the system broadcasting.

Image Source: tactdb.blogspot.com

Electronic Protection

          Electronic protection (EP) or electronic counter-countermeasures (ECCM) involves actions taken to protect friendly forces (personnel, facilities, and equipment) from any effects of friendly or enemy use of the electromagnetic spectrum that degrade, neutralize, or destroy friendly combat capability. EW capability.  Effectively it is the ability to defeat EA. Flares are often used to distract IR missiles to miss their target. Other examples of EP include use of chaff (protection against radar-guided missiles), spread spectrum technologies, use of restricted frequency lists, emissions control, low observability (stealth) technology and DRFM decoy systems (protection against radar-targeted anti-aircraft weapons). An electronic warfare tactics range (EWTR) is a practice range which provides for the training of personnel in electronic warfare. EWTRs are equipped with ground-based equipment to simulate electronic warfare threats that aircrew might encounter on missions.

Image Source: slideshare.net/karheng1/electronic-warfare-for-the-republic-of-singapore-air-force

Electronic Warfare Support

          Electronic warfare support (ES) to detect, intercept, identify, locate, and/or localize sources of intended and unintended radiated electromagnetic (EM) energy. Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) or intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) are the terms used. The purpose is to provide immediate recognition, prioritization, and targeting of threats to battlefield commanders. Signal Intelligence (SIGINT), is related process of analyzing and identifying intercepted transmissions from sources such as radio communication, mobile phones, radar, or microwave communications. SIGINT covers electronic intelligence (ELINT), and communications intelligence (COMINT). Analysis parameters measured include frequency, bandwidth, modulation, and polarization.

Image Source: defence.pk

Optical Fibre Cable (OFC) Hacking

Many people don’t realize is that fiber optic cables are often easily accessible and unguarded, making them a potential target for hackers looking to tap into the huge amounts of data that travel across these fiber networks. Systemic malignant penetration perpetrated by compromising data quality of the stream on the broadband cable through either OFC or copper medium could be an exponentially augmented hazard There are serious security vulnerabilities that impact operations.

Important Operations

          During World War II, there was extensive used of EW, also referred to as the “Battle of the Beams“. The first application of EW in WWII was to defeat those navigational radars. Chaff was also introduced during WWII. Electronic warfare played a major role in many military operations during the Vietnam war. In 2007, an Israeli attack on a suspected Syrian nuclear site (Operation Orchard) also called Operation Outside the Box used electronic warfare systems to disrupt Syrian air defenses while Israeli jets crossed much of Syria, bombed their targets, and returned to Israel undeterred. Israeli EW systems deactivated all of Syria’s air defense systems for the entire period of the raid, infiltrating the country, bombing their target and returning. Operation Mole Cricket 19 was a suppression of enemy air defences (SEAD) campaign launched by the Israeli Air Force against Syrian targets on June 9, 1982, at the outset of the 1982 Lebanon War. The operation was the first time in history that a Western-equipped air force successfully destroyed a Soviet built SAM network. The result was a decisive Israeli victory, leading to the colloquial name the “Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot”. The battle lasted about two hours, and involved innovative tactics and technology. By the end of the day, Israeli forces had destroyed 29 of 30 SAM batteries deployed in the Bekaa Valley, and shot down 82–86 enemy aircraft, with minimal losses of its own.

Operation Orchard. Before and after satellite images of the Syrian nuclear reactor at al-Kibar, which was reportedly struck by Israel in 2007.(AP/DigitalGlobe). Image Source: timesofisrael.com

Current and Future Trends in Military Electronic Warfare Systems

          Modern warfare has made impressive strides in the areas of communications, RADAR and surveillance. Military SIGINT platforms are trying to cover the spectrum from HF to Ka band, sometimes over an enormous dynamic range. All efforts are on for improving EW technologies through means such as machine learning. While cognitive EW is a work in progress, the miniaturization and density of electronics components continue to increase, and if cooling technology keeps up, this will drive radio frequency (RF) system functional consolidation and enhance sensor performance.

U.S. Air Force RC-135V/W Rivet Joint SIGINT aircraft. Image source: http://www.military.com

          The future will see multispectral, multimode and multifunction capability, said Chris Rappa, product line director for RF, EW and advanced electronics with BAE Systems’ FAST Labs research and development organization. Active electronically scanned arrays (AESAs) are already multimode but over a narrow band, he said. The aim is to build large or small totally digital arrays, where the electronics behind every element in the array are digital and the array can be controlled in every aspect at the element level. Ten years from now Rappa expects to see very large, all-digital, precisely controlled arrays that are multifunction, multimode and capable of learning on the fly to be cooperative or disruptive, whenever they need to be. He expects they’ll be highly flexible — able to do signals intelligence, electronic support measures (ESM), electronic attack (EA), radar, positioning, navigation and timing (PNT), and communications, all from one array and one box, and all cognitively and adaptively controlled.

Northrop Grumman Corporation’s Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) is available for the B-52 Bomber Modernization Radar System. Courtesy: United States Air Force. Image source: news.northropgrumman.com

          Much will depend on continuing advances in semiconductors and cooling. Board designer Abaco Systems envisions an RF processing power and bandwidth “escalation race” becoming faster paced. Cognitive RF and EW, for example, call for reconfigurable multiprocessor architectures featuring components such as low-latency field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) and graphics processing units (GPUs), as well as general-purpose processors. If these micro-level trends continue, we may see large increases in performance. Once you have an array with thousands of elements pumping out digital data, Rappa predicted, the instantaneous bandwidth of the system and the data volumes produced increase exponentially. Such a system would be able to look a lot wider and deeper into the spectrum, with a lot more sensitivity, he added. We could also see multispectral fusing, combining data from the RF and optical spectrums, Rappa said. The more data inputs, the better for identification purposes, just as multiple human senses, eyes plus ears complement each other.

Northrop Grumman E-8 Joint STARS airborne ground surveillance, battle management and command and control aircraft.. Image Source: Wikipedia

          “Systems will have to become much more ISR-like,” said John Thompson, naval aviation campaign director with Northrop Grumman’s Mission Systems Sector, referring to the exquisite fidelity of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance sensors that currently require huge apertures and massive processing resources. “But how do you get that really deep knowledge of RF signals inside tactical fighters?”

          EW systems also will become a lot smarter. Dan Kilfoyle, technical director for electronic warfare systems with Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems, expects future systems will be looking at more complex data sets, including the context of signals. In addition to measuring the usual parameters, systems will ask, what else is going on in the theater right now? What’s the normal behavior in an area? What does a system do when it thinks it saw me? Over time, AI reasoning will become more complex, just as a person progresses from making sounds to saying words and eventually to having more and more complex thoughts.

Major Driving Factors – Global EW Market

As per Global Newswire report of  December 10, 2019, Increasing transnational and regional instability is a major driving factor for the growth of the Electronic Warfare market. However, the high cost of equipment will be a significant factor obstructing the growth of the market in developing countries, as those countries prefer the traditional means of Electronic Weapons. The global Electronic Warfare market was USD 25.813 Billion in 2018 and is projected to grow at a CAGR of 4.58% from 2019 to 2026. Advanced electronic attack solutions are used to deliver non-kinetic and digital effects, while still providing a cloak of protection for the platforms. Another major factor for the growth of the market is the increasing focus on Cognitive electronic warfare technology, which will spur the demand for Electronic Warfare. The U.S. is at the stage of expanding its Electronic Warfare research, development, test and evaluation funding and procurement. The increasing rate of electronic, cyber, and optical domains will require a perceptible shift in war-fighting techniques. Since the avenues of technological advancement in these fields are limitless, new generations of equipment will emerge at a rapid rate. The challenge would be to integrate them into the physical domain of war-fighting and achieve the desired effect on the adversary. The relatively new field of Quantum Computing has the potential of creating a new generation of satellites. Trends like these will help drive the market further over the forecast period.

Russian Krasukha  mobile, ground-based, electronic warfare (EW) system. Image Source: Wikipedia

Equipment like the Russian Krasukha-4 or the Turkish KORAL ground-based jammer can generate very high power output over a broadband of frequencies that can be effective at distances up to 300km, which is a big jump from the previous generation of jammers that had limited ranges and effectiveness while in broadband jamming mode. Truly multi-role aircraft operating in high threat AD environment will be more effective than single mission electronic attack legacy aircraft. The advanced EW systems being used for military applications, which can effectively disrupt and paralyze the operations of the enemy, are however, likely to see a greater reliance on non-standard protocols, non-standard modulation schemes, and proprietary waveforms. Aerial Platform is predicted to be the second-largest segment in the market, with a global market share of over 30% in 2026. Electronic warfare segment is projected to grow the fastest over the forecast period due to the increasing procurement of equipment in military ships and aircraft. Key participants in the EW include Honeywell International (U.S.), Thales Group (France), Bosch (Germany), Northrop Grumman Corporation (U.S.), Kvh Industries (U.S.), Moog, Inc.(U.S.), Rockwell Collins (U.S.), Fairchild Semiconductors (U.S.), Analog Devices (U.S.), Xsens (Netherlands), Sensonor AS (Norway), and VectorNav Technologies (U.S.).

Lockheed Martins AN/BLQ-10(V) Submarine Electronic Warfare System. Image Source: lockheedmartin.com

The Global Electronic Warfare Market 2020-2030

The Global Electronic Warfare Market is witnessing a change in perception with different stakeholders who are seeing EW as a core weapon technology rather than supporting technology. Demand for EW systems is anticipated to be driven by rapid technological advancements in the domain, focus on directed energy weapons and the growing need for electronic protection capabilities in militaries globally. There is a greater demand from airborne platforms leading to sustained investment in the airborne EW segment. There is a greater emphasis on information superiority and situational awareness, and this is expected to be a major factor driving spending in this sector.

The U.S. Navy’s Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program aims to enhance situational awareness for combat ships. Photo by the U.S. Navy. Image Source: http://www.upi.com

The US military has continued to make robust investments in the electronic warfare systems domain. The focus is on the development of advanced EW products and enhancing the capability of existing warfare platforms.
The global electronic warfare market is expected to value US$13 billion in 2020, and will witness an overall growth of 1.99%, to value US$15.6 billion by 2030, as per a May 28, 2020 report in  Business Wire, a Berkshire Hathaway company. The EW market is witnessing greater demand from airborne platforms leading to sustained investment in the airborne EW segment. Modern airborne warfare platforms are putting a greater emphasis on information superiority and situational awareness, and this is expected to be a major factor driving spending in this sector.

Dedicated EW aircraft. Boeing EA-18G Growler. Image Source: http://www.jetphotos.com

          There are increasing investments by most major militaries in EW management systems, electronic jamming systems, and other countermeasure systems. The Business Wire report also provides a snapshot of the spending and modernization patterns of different regions around the world. Recent developments and industry challenges: insights into technological developments and a detailed analysis of the changing preferences of electronic warfare segments around the world. It also provides trends of the changing industry structure and the challenges faced by industry participants.

Russia’s Mi-8MTPR-1 electronic warfare helicopters. Image Source: engineeringrussia.wordpress.com

Increased U.S. EW Attention

          The US Defense Department plans to boost investment in electronic warfare capabilities as it gears up for great power competition. Jon Harper wrote in National Defense in July 2019, that Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that EW is the No. 1 functional area where investments need to be made in the coming years. “Being in a position to achieve superiority in the electromagnetic spectrum is absolutely critical,” he said. Using unclassified sources, the Congressional Research Service estimates that the department is seeking $10.2 billion for these types of capabilities in fiscal year 2020. “Based on statements by several senior defense officials and the conclusions of the National Defense Strategy Commission, it could be expected that DoD is likely to substantially increase funding for EW programs,” military capabilities analyst John Hoehn wrote in a recent CRS report titled, “U.S. Military Electronic Warfare Investment Funding: Background and Issues for Congress.” The Trump administration aims to boost EW spending by $1.48 billion in 2021 (a 16.3 percent increase), $1.53 billion in 2022 (a 16.9 percent increase) and $1.41 billion in 2023 (a 14.8 percent increase), report said. Congress has demonstrated strong interest in electronic warfare projects, Hoehn noted. For fiscal year 2019, lawmakers provided nearly $700 million more for electronic warfare projects than the administration requested. “If you take a look at what China and Russia are doing in terms of their war-fighting strategy, they emphasize being able to operate effectively in the electromagnetic spectrum,” said Mark Gunzinger, a non-resident senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. That includes being able to deny an enemy’s ability to control the spectrum. It is a domain where wars can be won or lost, he said. The U.S. military must take steps to ensure that it can “win the battle for the airwaves,” he said. New offensive and defensive capabilities that could be useful include directed energy weapons such as high power microwaves that are capable of destroying electronic components, and new unmanned systems with EW weapons, he said. The stealthy F-35 joint strike fighter can also perform EW missions, he noted. “That is a very capable electronic-attack aircraft.”

Pods for EW Equipment Developed by DARE. Image Source: http://www.drdo.gov.in

Defence Avionics Research Establishment (DARE)

          DARE is a laboratory of the Indian Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), located in Bangalore. It is one of the two DRDO laboratories involved in the research and development of airborne electronic warfare and mission avionics systems. It was established in 1986 as a Project Laboratory, then named “Advanced Systems Integration and Evaluation Organisation” (ASIEO). On 1 June 2001, ASIEO became a full-fledged DRDO laboratory and was renamed as Defence Avionics Research Establishment (DARE). DARE works on development of electronic warfare systems and mission avionics for aircraft. ASIEO developed the first mission computer for Light Combat Aircraft in 1991. It also developed a self-protection suite for the aircraft that included radar warning receiver, laser warning receiver, jammer, missile approach warning system, and countermeasure dispensers under a program named Mayawi in collaboration with Israle’s Elisra. Sukhoi Su-30MKI uses Tarang Mk 2 radar warning receiver developed by DARE and manufactured by Bharat Electronics Limited. Its mission computer, radar processor and indication management computer were also developed by DARE and manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited’s (HAL) Hyderabad division. In 2006, DARE partnered with EADS’s defence electronics division to develop a missile approach warning system for the Indian Air Force based on the latter’s AN/AAR-60 system. The jointly developed system was put into trials in 2008 and was planned to be co-produced with Alpha Technologies. DARE has also partnered with Elisra to jointly develop electronic warfare systems for Indian and Israeli aircraft. DARE has utilized this partnership to develop an electronic warfare suite for Mikoyan MiG-29 named D-29.

Image Source: Twitter Defence Decode @DefenceDecode

          DARE has worked with HAL to develop avionics for upgrade programs for several Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft. It participated in the development of a mission computer for SEPECAT Jaguar and in the development of navigation and electronic warfare systems for Mikoyan MiG-27M. DARE, in collaboration with Centre for Airborne Systems and Defence Electronics Research Laboratory, developed antennas for electronic warfare support measures and communication systems of DRDO AEW&CS. DARE also developed a unified electronic warfare suite with an integrated radar jammer and a radar warning receiver for HAL Tejas. The system was flown on a prototype aircraft, PV-1.

Defence Electronics Research Laboratory (DLRL) HIMRAJ Ground Based Mobile ELINT System (GBMES). Image Source: http://www.drdo.gov.in

Defence Electronics Research Laboratory (DLRL)

          DLRL is a laboratory of the  DRDO, located in Hyderabad, to design and development of integrated Electronic Warfare systems for the Indian Armed Forces. DLRL was established in 1961. Communication cipher equipment, developed by DLRL, was deployed in the 1965 war with Pakistan. For testing and evaluation of EW systems ELSEC, an extension of DLRL, was established in 1998 on a 180 acre campus. EW system simulation and modeling facilities are located inside ELSEC to carry out simulation of complex systems. DLRL works on COMINT/ELINT/ESM/ECM systems covering radar and communication frequency bands. It also conducts systems integration and evaluation of these technologies on various platforms, like aircraft, ships, helicopters, vehicles, etc. DLRL also conducts specialized training courses in Electronic Warfare and technology management for DRDO Scientists and officers of the Indian Armed Forces. DLRL is involved in the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP), providing ground electronic support for IGMDP, and expertise in the design and development of various components, antennas and sub-systems for HF to microwave and millimetric wave frequencies. DLRL has designed, developed and produced a large number of ruggedised Electronic Warfare (EW) Systems. These systems have been inducted into the Services after rigorous field evaluation and user testing.

Bomber Electronic warfare (EW) suites – BEL Ajanta onboard indigenous INS Kamorta, anti-submarine corvettes. Image Source: http://www.wikiwand.com

SPECTRA – Rafale’s internal “Electronic Warfare” (EW) System

          SPECTRA (Self-Protection Equipment Countering Threats to Rafale Aircraft) was jointly developed by Thales Group and MBDA for the Dassault Rafale fighter aircraft. The full SPECTRA integrated electronic warfare suite provides long-range detection, identification and accurate localisation of infrared homing, radio frequency and laser threats. The system incorporates radar warning receiver, laser warning and Missile Approach Warning for threat detection plus a phased array radar jammer and a decoy dispenser for threat countering. It also includes a dedicated management unit for data fusion and reaction decision. The SPECTRA system consists of two new-generation infrared missile warning sensors. The new infrared array detector  enhances performance with regard to the range at which a missile firing will be detected. With two sensors, each equipped with a fish-eye lens, it provides a spherical field of view around the aircraft. It also offers improved rejection of false alarms and gives an angular localisation capability which will be compatible with the future use of Directional Infrared Counter Measures (DIRCM).

Rafale EW Suite. Image Source: Twitter AVS @avs_IND

          Thales Group and Dassault Aviation have mentioned stealthy jamming modes for the SPECTRA system, to reduce the aircraft’s apparent radar signature. It is not known exactly how these work or even if the capability is fully operational, but it may employ active cancellation technology, such as has been tested by Thales and MBDA. Active cancellation is supposed to work by sampling and analysing incoming radar and feeding it back to the hostile emitter out of phase thus cancelling out the returning radar echo.

          SPECTRA ensures Rafale’s outstanding survivability against the latest airborne and ground threats. It is fully integrated with other systems in the aircraft, and it provides a multi-spectral threat warning capability against hostile radars, missiles and lasers. The SPECTRA system carries out reliable long-range detection, identification and localisation of threats, allowing the pilot to instantly select the most effective defensive measures based on combinations of radar jamming, infrared or radar decoying and evasive manoeuvres. The angular localisation performance of the SPECTRA sensors makes it possible to accurately locate ground threats in order to avoid them, or to target them for destruction with precision guided munitions. The SPECTRA’s airborne threat localisation, is one of the keys of the Rafale’s superior situational awareness. Also instrumental in SPECTRA’s performance is a threat library that can be easily defined, integrated and updated on short notice by users in their own country, and in full autonomy. SPECTRA now includes a new generation missile warning system that offers increased detection performance against the latest threats.

Image Source: tfipost.com

French AREOS – Recce Pod

          For both strategic and tactical reconnaissance missions, the French Armed Forces have been using the new generation Thales AREOS reconnaissance system on the Rafale. The equipment has been operationally used in Libya, Mali, the Central African Republic, Iraq and Syria. To shorten the intelligence gathering cycle and accelerate the tempo of operations, the AREOS pod is fitted with a data link which allows high resolution images to be transmitted back to military decision makers in real time.

AREOS Reconnaissance NG Pod. Image Source: web.ipmsusa3.org

Way Ahead India

          South Asia is becoming a place of EW action, including its coupling with cyber warfare (CW). Chinese armed forces have been going through major reforms since 2015. President Xi Jinping has expanded the Central Military Commission’s direct control over military operations and operational forces. Armed forces technical functions have been consolidated under the People’s Liberation Army Strategic Support Force (PLASSF). Clearly indicating greater focus on intelligence and information warfare. The Chinese recognise the complementarities between the electronic and cyber warfare. The theatre commands are tailored to exploit the unified information warfare service in the form of the PLASSF.

People’s Liberation Army Strategic Support Force (PLASSF) logo. Image Source: Wikipedia

          The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has acquired advanced electronic warfare capabilities and airborne warning and control system aircraft to conduct electronic warfare and to support the command and control. Another area that Pakistan has been pushing is the  Software Defined Radio (SDR). These ensure clear or encrypted voice and data communication in VHF and UHF frequency band as well as fully automatic integration with tactical and strategic networks to provide “cellular phone” services to tactical users. A Chinese made JY-27A counter-very-low-observable radar has been seen at Mianwali Airbase in Pakistan as per a Jane’s report.

Image Source: medium.com/@indrastra

          India’s Land Warfare Doctrine 2018, clearly speaks of enhancing the capabilities in network centric and electronic warfare. India now has a Defence Cyber Agency, that is already active. Indian Air Force’s (IAF) Integrated Air Command and Control System (IACCS) greatly enhances the network warfare capability. The Rafale brings a state of the art EW suite. All other combat aircraft of IAF already have electronic self protection suites, and many have offensive ECM pods. Indian Naval ships have a powerful EW complement. India’s network centric and electronic warfare capabilities of Battlefield Surveillance Radars, Weapon Locating Radar and Airborne Early Warning and Control Systems. Notwithstanding, India is still highly import dependent on high end EW systems. There is thus a need to push for indigenous technologies.

Image Source: japcc.org

Published by Anil Chopra

I am the founder of Air Power Asia and a retired Air Marshal from the Indian Air Force.

16 thoughts on “Electronic Warfare -Trends – Time For India to Become Atamnirbhar

  1. Very well analysed article. The joint operational requirement between Cyber and EW which I have termed Cybertronic Warfare needs serious attention, including cadre and capacity building.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sir, is it true that in comparison to the Indian Army, the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force are steadily phasing out their USSR/Soviet Union/Russian military hardware and replacing them with USA/US/American military hardware?


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