In the first post of this series, we discussed the history of electronic warfare as it was being developed during WWII. While much has changed in the last 80 years, one constant remains true—the cat-and-mouse game to develop the superior technology that grants the owner control over the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS). When one nation deploys a new radar system, its adversary begins work on the technology to jam the radar. This prompts the first nation to modify their radar system with new features to protect it from the jammer, which brings us to the final topic in this series—electronic protection.
Who remembers that scene in the movie Spaceballs where Lone Starr jams the enemy radar using raspberry jam, causing it to lose the “bleeps, the sweeps, and the creeps”? While Mel Brooks does show what electronic warfare can do, the details aren’t exactly accurate. In this post, we will clear up some of these details in our discussion on electronic attack.
Sometimes it’s hard to believe how quickly technology progresses. It’s only been about a decade since Steve Jobs announced the first iPhone. And today, between checking email, navigating to a new restaurant, sharing photos with family and turning the lights on or off in my kid’s room, it’s hard to image life without a smart phone.
Let’s go back in time to the year 1992—about 15 years before the iPhone and the beginning of the Joint Strike Fighter program. While the earliest prototypes flew in late 2000, it wasn’t until 2006 that the F-35 had its first test flight. Then, in 2011, almost two decades after the program began, the first production aircraft rolled off the assembly line. While this was a very long development time when compared to smart phones, no one would trust a smart phone with their life. That said, the digital revolution of the last decade is finding its way to the electronic warfare (EW) industry, and it’s forcing us to change how we deploy EW systems.
This new and continually changing reality was on everyone’s mind at the recent AOC Symposium and Conference held in Washington, DC. The symposium theme, “Winning the Electromagnetic Spectrum Domain: A Culture and Mind Shift”, captured the sentiment clearly.
As we embark on the digital age of recruiting we must, more than ever, ensure we are delivering on the key elements of talent attraction that serve to optimize hiring manager satisfaction, while also providing a best-in-class experience for the candidate. Having careers in both agency (3rd party) recruiting and the corporate world (scale operations, early career, executive recruitment, sourcing and leadership) for 15+ years, I have found successful recruiting organizations have the following three elements ingrained in each of their recruiters to serve at a high level on a consistent basis.
Dennis Vied, Lieutenant (retired), a native of Wyatt, Missouri, began his service in the US Navy after graduating from the United States Naval Academy in 1960. Reporting to the USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) aircraft carrier, he served as an Assistant Navigator and Radar Navigation Officer with collateral duties as Officer of the Deck and CIC (Combat Information Center) watch standing.
Timothy Thor Willis, Electronics Petty Officer (retired), grew up in the Trinity Mountains of Northern California. He was studying psychology in San Diego when the attack of 9/11 occurred. When this devastation hit the country, Tim felt compelled to do something and joined the US Coast Guard in 2002. After completing Basic Training in Cape May, New Jersey, he attended various electronics schools and specialized training courses. Tim was then stationed on the 378′ High Endurance Cutter “Rush” out of Honolulu, Hawaii (WHEC-723) for three years.
Mike Schneider, Colonel (retired), was a soldier for over 30 years and held a variety of US Army and Joint Command and Staff positions at all echelons of the Department of Defense. He served in operational assignments in Europe, the Pacific, the Middle East, and throughout the United States, commanding multiple units at the company level, an air assault battalion, and an airborne brigade. Mike served in a variety of strategic and operational planner positions at US Army Pacific, Multi-National Force Iraq, and both the Joint Staff and Army Staff in the Pentagon.
Mark Bruington, Captain (retired), served in the US Navy for 28 years as a Naval aviator. Before joining the Navy, he received a BS in Physics from San Francisco State University.
In his initial assignment with the A-6 Intruder attack aircraft, he supported a deployment for Operation Southern Watch in the Persian Gulf on board the USS Nimitz (CVN-68). Following the retirement of the A-6, he transitioned to the F-14 Tomcat where he joined multiple squadrons all deploying aboard the John C. Stennis (CVN-74), mainly supporting Operation Southern Watch.
Mark then attended US Naval Test Pilot School where he was assigned to the Strike Test Squadron in Patuxent River, MD, flight testing both the F-14 and F/A-18 aircraft. During his time on shore duty, he received an MS in Systems Engineering from John Hopkins University. Following the events of 9/11, Mark once again deployed aboard the USS Stennis during Operation Enduring Freedom, flying missions in direct support of US and coalition ground forces in Afghanistan.
“They have a missile-lock on us!” is a phrase we’ve heard countless times in movies and is usually a sign that a radar-guided missile is incoming. Ever wonder how the aircraft’s systems detect this type of threat? In this post, we’ll discuss how a radar warning receiver provides information on an adversary’s radar, as well as some general information on electronic support. Before we get into the details, I recommend reviewing the two previous posts for a brief background of the history of electronic warfare and an overview of radar.
What is Electronic Support?
Electronic support (ES) is the set of technologies and methods designed to receive and analyze an adversary’s transmissions of electromagnetic signals. This includes locating the sources of radar signals as well as identifying the adversary’s communication signals.
There is crossover between ES and signal intelligence (SIGINT), but the key difference is that ES is more tactical while SIGINT is more strategic. For example, while an ES system might identify an adversary’s communication signal so it can be jammed, a SIGINT system will intercept the transmission for longer-term strategic planning. Additionally, electronic support is less concerned with the content of the signal and instead is focused on the technical details of the transmission itself.
While both ES and SIGINT are critical, this article focuses on electronic support and its objective of improving situational awareness.
Lisa Disbrow, Colonel (retired), served in the US Air Force and US Air Force Reserve as an Operations Intelligence Officer, Operational Planner, and Programmer. Lisa retired from the USAF Reserve with over 23 years of total service. She graduated from the University of Virginia in 1984 and received her commission from the Air Force’s Officer Training School, Lackland AFB, TX in 1985.
Lisa was an Indications & Warning Officer in the global watch center during the Cold War, tracking Soviet force disposition, including bomber and submarine movements. She was competitively selected by the Defense Intelligence Agency for a Master’s Degree and Arabic language training.
During Desert Storm, she produced US Central Command’s Tactical Electronic, Air and Missile Orders of Battle for joint targeting. She then transitioned to the Reserve after Desert Storm, serving as an operational planner in “Checkmate” global planning office, and a programmer developing the USAF’s annual budget request at the Pentagon.