RF & Microwave

Electronic Support: An Overview of Electronic Warfare Part 3

“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.

Read More

Veterans at Mercury Systems Series

Veterans @MRCY: Lisa Disbrow

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.

Read More

Management of Complicated Systems

Complicated systems, like the ones created here at Mercury, beg for access to a management module that can monitor health and control the behavior of modules that make up these systems. These management modules can be separate, integrated on each module/board, or strictly software applications. Our SMP Engineering team has dealt with these many types and have incorporated them, depending on the customer’s application and the level of security that is required.

Read More

GPS satellites orbit 12,500 miles from the Earth – resulting in very low signal strength

Can GPS be Trusted? Part 3

In my previous posts, I discussed the shortcomings and benefits of utilizing GPS as a primary Position Navigation and Timing (PNT) source. I also examined methods that provide Assured PNT (or A-PNT). These include hardening the GPS signal against jamming, while at the same time jamming the enemy’s receivers, utilizing encryption to provide spoofing immunity, and complementing GPS with other forms of PNT equipment.

This final post will focus on how complementing PNT systems can be combined together in a military vehicle and how this can be efficaciously integrated with other military ground vehicle systems.

Read More

Veterans at Mercury Systems Series

Veterans @MRCY: Edward Conant

Edward Conant, Colonel (retired), Operational Fighter and Test Pilot, served in the US Air Force for 26 years after graduating from the US Air Force Academy in 1988. He began his career flying the F-15C Eagle at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. He’s pictured here in the cockpit of “his” F-15 (although the American taxpayer still owned the jet!).

Read More

The Secret to Amplifying Your Impact

On my LinkedIn page, I posted an update inspired by the book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth. Motivated by the response I received, I wanted to explore this topic further in my first blog post!

No matter what job title is listed on my email signature, I’m an engineer by training and at heart. You can imagine my surprise, as I was reading Grit, when I came across these equations I’d like to share with you:

Achievement = Skill * Effort   (Eq1)

Skill = Talent * Effort   (Eq2)

Combine both equations, and you arrive at a formula that is the subject of today’s post:

Achievement = Talent * (Effort)^2   (Eq3)

Duckworth adeptly refers to this as “Effort counts twice.”

Read More

RF & Microwave

Radar Basics: An Overview of Electronic Warfare Part 2

In the first post of this series, we discussed the history of electronic warfare with an emphasis on the back-and-forth competition to develop systems that grant the owner control over the electromagnetic spectrum. When one country develops a new radar system, its adversary starts working on a jammer. In order to mitigate the effects of the jammer, the radar developer then must design a system that protects the radar from those effects.

This invisible battle over control of the electromagnetic spectrum is critical to success on the battlefield and is the topic of the subsequent posts. However, understanding the technology to jam and deceive radar requires an understanding of the radar systems.

We’re all familiar with the applications of radar—that yellow warning light on your mirror telling you someone is in your blind spot, police radar monitoring your speed, images on the news showing the path of a storm. However, for the purpose of understanding electronic warfare, we’ll look at the types of radar in three main groups.

Read More

GPS satellites orbit 12,500 miles from the Earth – resulting in very low signal strength

Can GPS be Trusted? Part 2

In my previous blog post, Can GPS be Trusted? Part 1, I explained why commercial GPS position, navigation and timing (PNT) cannot be trusted for critical systems. This blog explains how a trusted PNT system can still use a GPS as the primary PNT source.

Adding Trust with A-PNT

Assured Position, Navigation and Timing (also known as A-PNT) is an Army initiative that attempts to provide soldiers and systems with a reliable and accurate source of position, navigation and time even during compromised, denied or spoofed GPS transmissions.

A-PNT is a set of goals that are driven by the Army’s Direct Reporting Program Manager PNT (PM PNT) and the PNT System of Systems Architecture (SoSA). They derive from technologies developed by the Army’s Communications Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) and generally follow COTS (Commercial Off-The-Shelf) technological improvements.

A-PNT’s goals can be summarized by the following:

  • Harden – resilience to denial, both from enemy and friendly jamming
  • Trust – immunity to spoofing
  • Complement – redundancy to failure by complementing GPS with multiple non-GPS PNT sensor

Read More

Think Global, Act Local

According to the web site Simplicable.com,

“’Think global, act local’, is a common principle that is applied to organizations, business, education and governance. It asks that employees, students and citizens consider the global impact of their actions.”

As a group, virtually all who are reading this blog (thank you) are all of the above – employees, students and citizens. It’s logical to assume the words global and local are relative terms – especially within an engineering context.

A friend of mine holds a PhD in Astrophysics from Caltech. Like a lot of super smart guys, he now excels in an area that couldn’t be farther afield from his education – although, Astrophysics speaks to a very large “field”. As the CTO of his current company, he has architected a very nice, one-touch disaster recovery system for data you just don’t want to lose. Marc likes to refer to the hardware behind the magic as, “the necessary evil”… In effect, he’s echoing the sentiments of Harvard Economist, Theodore Levitt, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole”.

Read More