Computing targets

Future trend of electronic warfare and counter measures

The modern trends in Electronic Warfare have brought lot of changes in recent times to incorporate large volume of electronic activities which can give the battlefield commander a variety of choice to choose the target and timing of launching the counter strike against enemy electronic fortifications.  

The miniaturization of electronics and digital signal processing have led to the development of a processor architecture made up of a number of identical array computing elements and made possible the use of multiple cooperating processors, transmitters, or arrays instead of one large unit of each.

However, crowding of the electro-magnetic spectrum presents the issue of electronic fratricide and the fact that civilian and military communications are competing for spectrum makes it even more complex, as civilian systems are not hardened against EW.  

Perhaps the need is for precision electronic attack systems which are more efficient and can focus the emissions more precisely, thereby reducing spillage and the chance of fratricide, and having a greater impact on the target.

At the same time, EW systems need to be capable of handling a wider variety of threats, from the traditional military threats to the improvised attacks in an asymmetric conflict.

Yet, the integrated network/electronic war will become the main operation mode. However, the major development direction of electronic/
information countermeasure equipments and technologies is fully integrated and networked.

In future, space will become an important area for EW, while the old EW aircraft will be improved and upgraded and new ones will be developed rapidly.

This will lead to new generation of anti-radiation missiles which will go into battlefield to increase SEAD (suppression of enemy air defense) capability.

Indeed, electronic/information weapons of new concept will become a major development area as much more attentions are being paid to the new type of passive detection system. Going by new trends in EW systems, it is indicated that EW weapon is increasingly acting as the key to win the modern war.

With the obvious advantages of technologies like the Internet, cell phones and portable computers, both civilian and military spheres have begun to use this technology for everyday use in their quest for domination of the Info-sphere.

Despite all this, electronic warfare has become a primary functional area of information warfare, and its relationship with network warfare and information infrastructure warfare.

Modern warfare has made impressive strides in the past century, especially in the areas of communications, RADAR and surveillance.

On the opposite side of the coin are the military SIGINT (Signal Intelligence) systems which attempt to detect, copy, jam and geo-locate signals emitted by radios, RADARs, etc as a means of providing the commander with a reasonable visualization of the Battlefield and with an EOB (Electronic Order of Battle).

Military SIGINT platforms are taxed to the limit of modern technology in trying to cover the spectrum from HF to Ka band, sometimes over an enormous dynamic range.

Electronic Warfare can be defined as denying an adversary’s use of the electromagnetic spectrum whilst preserving its availability for friendly use.

The EW components

Electronic warfare comprises of three subdivisions; electronic attack, electronic protection and E W support.

Electronic attack comprises of jamming, electromagnetic deception, and directed energy; electronic protection consists of electromagnetic hardening, emission control and spectrum management; and EW support consists of threat warning and electronic intelligence and associated intelligence operations.

There are also a number of analogies between electronic warfare and network warfare regarding tactical concepts.

Both can deny the information carrying medium via jamming of a denial-of-service attack, which will affect the adversary’s command and control or intelligence gathering and dissemination capabilities.

Decoys and deception can be used to hinder the enemy’s decision cycle process. Likewise there are methods of determining friend from foe, concealing the presence of forces, warning of potential threats, gathering intelligence, and other support services, such as spectrum or band width management.

The various pillars can also create affects in each others’ domains, for example electronic warfare can jam a PSYOPs broadcast or a wireless network, affecting the network warfare and possibly the information infrastructure warfare and command and control warfare areas.

Network warfare can disable networked air-defence systems, thereby creating an effect in the electromagnetic spectrum, distribute PSYOPs messages or disrupt the power grid, thereby affecting all information based systems that are reliant on it.

As there are analogous tactics, and the pillars can create effects in each other’s domain, it can be said that the pillars overlap. The largest overlap will be with network warfare and information infrastructure warfare, and then electronic warfare with information infrastructure warfare and network warfare.

There will be some overlap with PSYOPs and electronic warfare and network warfare. There is also a junction of electronic warfare, network warfare and information infrastructure warfare; this arises when electronic warfare disrupts a wireless networks that are critical to the information infrastructure.

It is these overlaps that could result in future changes to the roles of the IW pillars. The following section discusses technological trends in conflicts to determine areas that may affect the future role of electronic warfare.

To assess what future conflicts may entail, recent conflicts should be analysed (and other incidents) in order to determine a trend.

The trend that is of particular interest is the level of technology employed in the conflicts. A number of sample conflicts have been selected to illustrate the levels and types of technologies that have been employed in armed conflicts and other related incidents.

Recent conflicts

The publicized conflict in Somalia mostly revolves around the Black Hawk Down incident in1993, however the events preceding that incident, and immediately following, are what really defined the conflict.

The US forces entered Somalia in support of UN troops providing aid (mainly from Malaysia and Pakistan), whose aid convoys were being attacked by the warlords. The primary weapon used to ambush the convoys were remotely detonated mine.

At that stage, the strongest was Mohammed Farrah Aidid, and the US forces aimed at capturing him and his aides. The CIA had brought the latest and most sophisticated electronic surveillance technology, yet the Somalis used low-tech handheld radios and drums to communicate, rendering the CIA’s surveillance technology ineffective.

The defining action that effectively ended US involvement in that country was the defiling the bodies of US servicemen in front of CNN cameras, this created shock waves through the US, and the troops were withdrawn.

More recently, pirates off the coast of Somalia have become a problem, and this has been widely reported. After a ship’s captain was rescued from pirates, a number of cell phones and handheld radios were found.

It is therefore obvious that these devices are still being used to co-ordinate attacks. It is now believed that the radio broadcasts were used to fuel the Rwandan genocide in 1994.

However, the primary weapon used in the slaughter was the machete which is relatively low-tech. This illustrates the mix of extreme low-tech and modern systems that can be used in conflict.

Similar ethnic tensions resulted in war in the Congo and the Darfur genocide in 2003, both using similar low-tech solutions. However, the border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea came as a surprise in that two of the poorest nations managed to field advanced weapon systems, including fighters with EW equipment.

The NATO intervention in Kosovo has been dubbed a ‘virtual war’. The majority of the actual ‘fighting’ was defined by aerial bombardment, whereas there was a number of cyber attacks on both participating sides and a ‘propaganda war’ through the media.

Whilst the initial attacks were concentrated on the air-defence network, it eventually incorporated military ground units and ‘dual use’ targets (those that can be used for both military and civilian purposes), such as bridges and broadcasting stations.

The Afghanistan and 2003 Iraq conflicts started as attempts at a conventional force-on-force conflict (the Afghan rebels being providing the majority of the conventional forces supported by the coalition partners), with technological solutions utilising EW, suppression of enemy air-defence, and manoeuvre forces.

During the conflicts the media played a role, with press briefings from both sides of the conflict and the new concept of embedded journalists reporting virtually real-time from the front lines.

However, after the overthrow of the regimes, the conflicts-turned-peacekeeping operations changed to asymmetric ‘terrorism’ style conflicts incorporating suicide bombers, ambushes and improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which have proved to be the most effective weapon employed against the coalition forces.

Many of these IEDs are remotely detonated using cell phones and other common items, such as automatic gate remotes and toy radio controls.

Similar devices were used in the bombing campaign in Cape Town during late 1990’s. A number of these explosives were remotely detonated, some using cell phones as the trigger device.

Cyber attacks

In April 2007 a cyber-war was waged against Estonia. It was sparked when Russians took offense to the moving of a war memorial statue. Estonian websites, including those of the government, financial institutions and the media, were attacked over a period of three weeks, and left the state without access to critical services.

Other incidents include Titan Rain, a series of intelligence-gathering attacks on US military computers in 2004 and the GhostNet cyber-espionage network.

In 2009 three waves of cyber-attacks targeted websites across South Korea and the US from the 4th to 9th July. As with Estonia, the attacked websites were linked to the governments, military, media and financial institutions.

In 2008 Georgia was the target of cyber-attacks. However, this case is unique as it is the only time that cyber-attacks have coincided with a military incursion.

The Russian ‘invasion’ of Georgia was preceded and accompanied by a series of cyber attacks against Georgia.

The Georgians ability to communicate with the outside world, and media had to virtually rely on the Russian version of events for the first days of the conflict.

The new way of warfare exhibited over the last decade is not compatible with the clash of interstate armies that prevailed during the Cold War.

Indeed, as opposed to the Eurocentric vision of warfare encompassing large armies and vital interests, the strategic center of gravity has moved to uncertain threats emanating from Asia.

This trend has been accompanied by a change in the way allies are selected, a trend in favor of temporary coalitions and ad hoc partners who are valued for their political and diplomatic support rather than direct military participation.

Meanwhile, enemies of the future could include rogue states, non state actors, and possibly a peer competitor, all poised to undermine the use of force by the United States, with the objective of exploiting sensitivities to casualties, international public opinion, and battlefield vulnerabilities.

In addition, enemies can be expected to exploit the multifold dimensions of the access challenge by confounding US capabilities to project and sustain military power in the region of conflict.

Most ominously, events in Iraq suggested that enemies may possess and use weapons of mass destruction, the mere possibility of which will deter some courses of action, limit basing options in theater, compel the focus on counter-force missions by targeting weapons of mass destruction, and frustrate campaign-level force employment options.

Militarily, there has been a dramatic trend away from scripted plans and operational orders to a fluid, nonlinear, and adaptive battle space in which targets are generated while attack platforms are en route.

Factors that account for this approach to target generation begin with requirements for extended reach in recent operations.

Added to the tyranny of distance is the elusive nature of enemy forces and sketchy target sets characterized by fleeting opportunities, which are masked by deception.

These factors are offset by an order of magnitude improvement in situational awareness that enables commanders on all levels to view the battle space and intervene in near-real time.

Battle management indicates that the trend towards centralized execution is a growing reality.

Finally, the most prominent tendencies in force deployment and employment include an increased role for naval and air forces to project power quickly from a distance, a diminished emphasis on slow-moving, heavy ground forces requiring a large footprint in favor of agile fixing forces, and continued means and measures to lower the risk of casualties.

With regard to technology, the trend has been dominated by the use of precision munitions. They not only hit their targets, lowering the level of effort and minimizing collateral damage, but also reduce capabilities that must be deployed.

But such weapons are not useful without precise information. They are linked to improved targeting guidance aided by high-quality sensors, stealth and electronic jamming, and unmanned vehicles for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance as well as hunter-killer roles.

The United States has fielded impressive capabilities to meet the challenges of the post-Cold War era, including the global war on terrorism. However, the road ahead appears ever more demanding in terms of both the diversity of the threats and enemy capabilities.

Such considerations suggest that the military must prepare for uncertainty by investing in concepts, capabilities, and technologies to sustain competitive advantages. What will ultimately be required are agile, access-insensitive forces that project power across great distances with little reliance on externals.


In fact, there are a number of issues that will affect the EW mission area such as the increasing use of civilian wireless communication systems, cellular phones and media broadcasting stations.

The cell phones and two-way radios are being used for command and control and intelligence purposes, such as coordinating attacks.

This may make target and threat identification difficult if there are multiple active cell phone users in the cell, it may become difficult to identify a target or threat, especially as the majority of active users are probably innocent.

The use of low-tech solutions, such as cheap two-way radios for communication, or common remote controls for automatic gates and toys that are being used to detonate IEDs may also present a problem for EW operators and equipment.

Conflict may move between the high-tech and low-tech scenarios, or contain a combination of factors from these two scenarios. This would result in changing and broader target and threat types, which will in turn alter the requirements of the EW systems employed.

They may need to target the civilian systems as well as the traditional military targets of EW, such as radar, communications, and other EW systems, and provide threat warning and self-protection against the enemy threats.

The convergence of information and communications technologies also will present a problem such as telecommunications networks rely on computers to perform certain functions, which in turn require the telecommunications networks to provide connectivity across the public sphere.

Cell phones themselves are becoming mini-computers, capable of browsing the Internet, taking photos and video clips, connecting to other devices via Wireless Local Area Networks, and even sometimes receiving television or radio broadcasts.

The broadcast media again has a reliance on computers and cellular and satellite communications technologies in their attempt to provide real-time reporting.

Again, the media has moved to the internet, allowing streaming audio and video of the top stories or shows. This convergence blurs the distinction between telecommunications, computer networks, and the media.