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  • Untangling the Electromagnetic Traffic Jam
    Posted by David A. Fulghum 8:14 PM on Jun 28, 2011

    While today’s mélange of digital capabilities offers the opportunity to share data at the speed of light, someone is going to have to develop a scheme for electro-magnetic battle management (EMBM). Both Iraq and Afghanistan produced examples of an environment where nearly anything that was turned on interfered with something else.

    “We want to take electronic warfare where Link 16 [airborne communications] took air-to-air battle management with its common operating picture and centralized command and control,” Capt. John Green, the Navy’s program officer for airborne electronic attack told Aviation Week. “We have to determine the services we need and how we ensure they are common across the joint battlefield.”

    Cost and the need to be stealthy will drive both the Navy and Air Force away from large, new platforms. Instead, they will likely become smaller, cheaper adjuncts to existing programs. For example, EA-6B Prowlers and EA-18G Growlers provide a good deal of electronic surveillance.

    “But smaller, less expensive assets are capable of doing that,” Green says. That’s one of the reasons we want to do EMBM. Having those assets plugged into the network will lower the cost of doing business.”

    There also is the desire among planners to integrate many national and joint-services assets that are already functioning at the operational and strategic level with information that can be tapped for wider, more targeted distribution.

    The solution is seen as an IP-based network that relies heavily on a plethora of relays and bridging. The first examples of this IT merger in the Navy and Marine Corps came in 2009 with the Corporal signals intelligence and electronic attack advanced concept technology demonstration and the Intrepid Tiger I communications jammer. Now the Corporal capability is a joint technology demonstration and Intrepid Tiger 2 is a rapid acquisition program.

    “Not everyone is looking for the same set of services,” Green says. “We need an EMBM backbone for the Defense Dept. to [create] a distributed electronic warfare strategy and realtime management of the EM spectrum with both centralized and local command and control. We also need EM spectrum managers and electronic attack/electronic surveillance planners and executors.”

    Distributed EW also will require “compatibility, evaluation, algorithms for control systems and off-board realtime programming,” Green says.

    “Over time, we hope to get away from the focus on high-demand assets as the ideal,” Green says. “We have to be part of the overall network. Across the services, we want to make sure we have common standards that relate to battle management.”

    Another program that will have big impact on the world of anti-electronic attack, cyberscouting and establishing electronic orders of battle is the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ).

    “Originally we targeted 2018 for delivering the weapons system,” Green says. “2019 now seems more reasonable. In reality we have a complicated acquisition and requirement system that was further burdened by recent oversight changes.”

    Once developed, other services could join the NGJ program.

    “We imagine that the NGJ will be very applicable technology that the Air Force may want to leverage in another type jammer,” Green says. “The Navy and Marine Corps will do standoff and escort jamming in the joint warfare scenario. But there are other important areas like stand-in that are directly transferable. We’ll be working to ensure there are coordinated effects.”

    There also is likely to be ISR-like probing of enemy networks.

    “We don’t have a dedicated requirement set for network penetration,” he says. “That doesn’t mean we aren’t going to do things smartly in the world of digitally controlled jammers. That is probably a capability of the future.

    The EA-18G will not be a stand-alone aircraft.

    “It is anticipated that NGJ will operate in a system of systems construct with other jammers such as MALD-J [Air Force], Intrepid Tiger [Marine Corps], and smaller assets carried on UAVs with each system contributing to joint warfare,” Green says. “NGJ will communicate, either directly or via an aircraft data network, within the construct of an electronic warfare battle management network.”

    Intrepid Tiger is a communications jammer that has network invasion potential that could be exploited.

    “Certainly communications and data systems have a lot in common,” Green says. “Some are the same system. Cell phones carry a lot of data. There are a lot of systems out there that do communications and data functions, often at the same time. Certainly I would expect the Intrepid Tiger may be capable of that mission.”

    Tags: EMBM, F/A-18, AV-8B, ar99

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