EW 2011: UAVs to enter the EW business
NATO is making moves to adapt coalition UAVs for electronic warfare (EW) roles in Afghanistan, taking advantage of the heavy use of unmanned assets in the theatre.
Speaking at the Electronic Warfare 2011 conference in Berlin, Lt Gen Friedrich Ploeger, deputy commander of HQ Allied Air Command, said unmanned airborne assets were currently employed primarily for ISR purposes but should be adapted for the counter-IED role as well.
‘The exploitation of new technologies, such as unmanned aerial vehicles, offers us opportunities to enhance the capability and contribution of electronic warfare systems,’ Ploeger said.
‘From the air side, we provide the critical ISR, that is the main focus of our role and provides that to the people on the ground so they know when the probability of an IED is very high and can take proper countermeasures.
‘But the use of airborne systems against IEDs is relatively modest. Our main airborne electronic warfare systems are employed to deny use of communications systems by the other side.’
Ploeger told Shephard that with UAVs in heavy use in Afghanistan, EW proponents could take advantage of the persistent, loitering nature of such systems to employ EW systems to detonate IEDs at a time of their choosing.
He said as well as the integration of EW equipment with UAV systems, this would require the inclusion of EW specialists in the UAV’s mission control room.
One counter-point that was raised separately during the conference was that as the technology behind small, potentially swarming, UAVs become more prevalent, NATO chiefs are considering the EW capabilities that will be needed to counter such threats.
With no opposing air force in Afghanistan and against a relatively low-tech opponent, coalition EW assets have been principally employed for electronic attack, communications herding, information operations broadcast and pre-detonation of IED by ground-based systems.
‘However, this is a counter insurgency operation and we need to remain cautious about the use of the electromagnetic spectrum in order not to disturb the civilian life and our own operations,’ Ploeger said.
He said the ISAF mission had highlighted the perennial problem that there were never enough EW assets to satisfy the demand and there was still a major reliance on US capabilities.
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