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This week we’re talking about Electromagnetic Warfare (EW), the artist formerly known as Electronic Warfare. While traditionally an afterthought, it’s time to start paying attention to the geeks who know beeps and squeaks.
EW is an action involving the use of electromagnetic and directed energy to control the electromagnetic spectrum or to attack the enemy. It has three components.
- Electromagnetic Attack (EA): destructive or non-destructive attack on personnel, facilities, or equipment using the EMS. This includes things like jamming and directed energy.
- Electromagnetic Protection (EP): the defensive equivalent to EA. This includes everything from spectrum deconfliction (blue on blue) to negation of the bad dude’s EA using specific techniques.
- Electromagnetic Support (ES): The eyes and ears that detect, intercept, identify, and locate sources of intentional and unintentional radiated electromagnetic energy.
FYI: EW is a small piece of a much larger category known as Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations (EMSO).
Advances in software and hardware, and how they are structured, don’t just make your iPhone better every year. They make other things better too.
EW is shifting away from legacy hardware-centered programs to open systems architectures with reconfigurable computing platforms using software-defined radios. This reconfigurable hardware enables the flexibility and adaptability to handle novel waveforms in a timely manner.
Then there is the software, which rules every market sector in the world—except in EW. In general, EW systems (even the “advanced” ones) are still dependent on a 40-year-old linear programming process that rely on simple Excel-like look-up tables. This dumb EW is too frail and too slow in the modern world, similar to driving a 1980’s Yugo on a 2021 I-95. Good news: advances in software and AI/ML are shaping algorithms that are going to shape this into smarter things like adaptive EW and cognitive EW.
The Air Force has been asleep at the wheel for nearly three decades when it comes to EW. Those Air Force Chief of Staff General Brown’s words, not ours.
That said, several events over the past year indicate that things are finally changing:
- wants to add a thirty-first mission area for the Pentagon in law called spectrum operations
- drafted a statutory requirement for the Pentagon to appoint someone to lead the new strategy’s implementation.
The Air Force
- Established the RV Jones Institute, a non-profit that is the world’s first EMS center of excellence and aims to be the one-stop-shop and go-to authority on all things related to beeps and squeaks.
Time will tell how it all plays out, but it’s the most opportunistic time in a generation for EMSO.
In That Number
The savings are due to BAE’s performance-based logistics contracts it has with its component suppliers, and with its customer—Lockheed Martin.
Trivia: On this day, the Secretary of Defense held a Pentagon news conference to announce the existence of stealth technology. What year was it?
This week the Space Development Agency will hold an event to discuss details of the largest acquisitions of satellites planned to date. The solicitation is about Tranche 1 of the Transport Layer, a 150 small satellite constellation that will use radio-frequency and optical crosslinks to pass data to other satellites in orbit and to ground stations. The SDA plans to tap multiple companies to avoid vendor lock. The Army wants to experiment with a balloon-based high-altitude jammer concept. The idea is to float these balloons deep into enemy territory and blanket an area (or select targets) with super-advanced EW (cyber-enabled EA, coherent distributed EA, etc.) that is also somehow cheap enough to be disposable.
They Said It
“You can't manage what you're not monitoring,”
— Rachel Markwald, a sleep and human performance research physiologist at the Naval Health Research Center, on the Navy’s new initiative to outfit some sailors with smartwatches and smart rings to better understand ship crew fatigue so they address conditions leading to ship collisions.
One of the Air Force’s nascent and still-trying-to-define-itself concepts is Agile Combat Employment (ACE). While there is a ton of internal dialogue and varying opinions on ACE, have you ever wondered what China thinks about it? Zoom in here for the first public Chinese assessment on the U.S. Air Force ACE concept (they make some solid points).
- Red 6 wins a rare $70 million Air Force SBIR phase III contract to commercialize its in-flight augmented reality system for pilots
- The Army outlines 11 broad areas of AI research it’s interested in over the next five years
- ICON teams up with the Texas National Guard to print the largest 3D printed structure in North America
- Kratos and General Atomics both get contracts totaling $20 million to mature the government-owned autonomous core system that underpins the Air Force’s Skyborg UAS control system
- General Atomics show's off its MQ-20 Avenger flying with a LegionPod IRST system and feeding track data to its autonomy core system
- Tethers Unlimited proves its low-cost Terminator Tape system rapidly accelerates the deorbit of CubeSats into Earth’s atmosphere
- Raytheon won a $960 million contract from the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center to provide software and hardware support for the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) communication system
- Northrop Grumman is no longer in the running to build the Army a Stryker-based laser weapon system, leaving Raytheon as the lone contractor
- The Army approves the requirements for a competition to replace its runway-dependent RQ-7 Shadow UAS fleet
- AT&T is expanding its IT apprenticeship program that supports federal national security agencies
- The Navy’s Large Scale Exercise 2021 is the biggest test yet of a real-time live virtual and constructive framework
- SpaceX is sending a CubeSat with a digital billboard into space that will have a selfie stick to stream it back to Earth
- The NRO awarded a contract modification to BlackSky that will shift the on-demand satellite imagery provider to a monthly subscription model #spyAAS
- Fulcrum BioEnergy completes the Sierra biofuels plant, a defense-backed first-of-its-kind commercial-scale facility that will convert 175,000 tons of municipal waste into 10+ million gallons of biofuels annually
- The Marines successfully fired its rapidly developed anti-ship weapon that was built with proven subsystems from other programs of record
- BlackSky and Palantir announce a joint pilot project that combined high-resolution imagery and deep analytics to inform decision-makers with real-time space-based insights
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