The importance of electronic warfare in the information age should be a no-brainer. As electronics permeate—and in some cases dominate—every aspect of military operations, electronic warfare becomes a weapon of choice for forces ranging from the superpower down to the garage-shop terrorist. But in the same manner that the spread of information age technologies has spawned new capabilities, electronic warfare also has seen a geometric growth in its range of operations.
Electronic warfare (EW) is not new. From the day that radios appeared on the battlefield, enemies sought to intercept or degrade those signals. Signal degradation often took the form of broadcasting noise over the frequencies in use—jamming, it was called. And interception was simply a matter of listening to the same frequency as the targeted transmissions. One way
Now, in a world of frequency-hopping radios and digital encryption, EW has taken many forms. It is a measure of the advance of EW that it can be employed effectively by even the least-capable combatant. With
At the top of the list of recent asymmetrical warfare tools are improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. These devices have vexed planners in
In addition to battlefield applications, EW has its strategic side. Many potential adversaries know that the only way they can hope to defeat the network-centric force is by attacking the network. Ask any cyberspace security expert in the U.S. Defense Department today, and that person will tell you that we already are at war in the virtual environment. Defense networks are hit dozens of times each day, and the sophistication of many of these strikes betrays their origins as being national rather than individual.
Experts are divided as to whether these strikes are vulnerability probes or actual attempts to obtain information by tapping databases and network traffic. The likelihood is that both activities are well underway in the constant assaults on defense networks. If a conventional kinetic war were to break out between the
Every invention, discovery or innovation has brought about its own set of drawbacks. The electronics technologies that have fueled the information age also have provided it with its greatest threats. The EW age is upon us with a vengeance.
More information about electronic warfare is available in the July 2008 issue of SIGNAL Magazine, in the mail to AFCEA members and subscribers July 1, 2008. For information about purchasing this issue, joining AFCEA or subscribing to SIGNAL, contact AFCEA Member Services.