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Navy EW education adjusts to change.

Snuggled comfortably into the southern bight of Monterey Bay, CA, the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) occupies a site chosen originally in 1884 as the location for the "grandest of all hotels in the West." The area has lost little of its early beauty; the well-maintained grounds are a horticultural display of California native plants and trees. Yet this quiet setting belies the role that the NPS plays in today's world. Now a fully accredited graduate-only institution of higher learning, the school is dedicated to teaching officers of the United States Navy how to win the peace -- and, if need be, the war.

With 39 different curricula available at the Master of Science level and 15 PhD programs, students attending the NPS have a wide range of educational opportunities. Of all the available courses, the most unique is the Master of Science in System Engineering with a specialty in electronic warfare.


The mission of the NPS is to provide advanced and professional studies at the graduate level for military officers and defense officials from all services and selected foreign nations. Ordered by Congress in 1947 to "provide professional instruction to meet the needs of the Naval Service and to foster a program of research in order to sustain the school's academic excellence," the NPS has carried out its mission with a single-mindedness that is evident to this day.

The school's commitment is embodied by its faculty, under the direction of school commander RADM Thomas Mercer. With a total student body of 1,802 in 1992 and a mostly civilian academic teaching staff of 360 (over 98% of whom have a PhD in their field), the NPS has an enviable student-to-professor ratio that ensures an optimal learning experience for every student.

This is not an extravagant use of professorial time when considering how different the NPS is from typical civilian schools. Every class at the school is taught by the teaching staff -- no aides, no graduate assistants, no substitutes. All examinations are created by, administered by and graded by these same professors. Finally, it is this same professorial staff that searches for, acquires, carries out and provides guidance in the extensive research programs in which the students fully participate, and from which they generate their master's and doctoral theses.

This arrangement establishes close and constant communications between student and teacher, often extending to unlimited counseling for those requiring it. This close-knit interaction from both sides of the lectern leads to many long-standing personal relationships that often last well beyond an officer's short stay at the NPS.

This unique bond has worked to the school's advantage in many ways. With so many senior officers (and many civilian graduates) in positions of great responsibility, there exists a vast reservoir of loyal alumni who are in a unique position to assist their alma mater. Three recent EW system acquisitions -- SLQ-32, ULQ-21 and IMOM systems, two of which will be discussed later -- illustrate how past graduates support the NPS EW curricula.

The selection criteria for future graduates at the Naval Postgraduate School are not based solely on academic background. Great emphasis is also placed on the student's active duty performance, motivation and personal goals. This flexible acceptance criteria, especially in the EW area, opens the door to a considerable amount of cross fertilization. In 1992 over 57% of those enrolled at the NPS were "curriculum transitional." For example, in the electronics and communications curriculum, 48 of the 120 students enrolled had undergraduate degrees in fields as diverse as biology, English, history and international relations.

Although US Naval officers represent the majority of the students, the school is open to other qualified commands as well. For example, in the first quarter of 1993, the NPS population included 1,198 Navy, 121 Marine Corps, 181 Army, 62 Air Force and 41 civilian students from various DOD organizations.

An additional 199 students came from foreign countries; in fact, this year the NPS accepted its first full-time student from a former East Bloc nation -- Poland. These students continue a tradition established in 1921. However, they cannot attend classified courses or lectures at the Secret and above level. Of the 31 different curricula presently offered at the school, 23 are open to international students. Included are courses in electronic warfare and radar theory.

Since many who qualify under this unique selection process are not fully prepared academically on arrival at the NPS, they find themselves assigned to intensive refresher courses that cover such basics as math and physics. This individually tailored effort usually runs for a period of one to two quarters. Once completed, the student is then in a position to join more technically current shipmates in pursuit of a specialty such as EW.

The students attending electronic warfare courses are drawn not only from the EW curriculum itself, but also the aero, weapons and electrical and computer engineering curricula. The typical student arrives here about five to seven years into his/her military career.

As mentioned previously, the transition back to rigorous analytical thinking often takes a great deal of midnight oil. For example, Navy LT Susan Harvey, a graduate of the US Air Force Academy (no, not a typo!) with a BS in basic science, is presently carrying out research on the exploitation of high-definition video imaging seeker heads. A T-39 pilot before coming to the NPS, she admitted "the early transitional math and physics courses here at NPS were hard for me -- really hard."

During this early transitional phase it becomes clear how the close one-on-one contact and the relationships developed with the academic and military staff can be decided benefits. Unstinting faculty assistance and guidance are often the critical elements that ensure a successful reintroduction to the world of academia. An attrition rate of only 4% for the entire school, and essentially zero in EW, reflects this attitude.

"I just didn't anticipate how much support I would receive here at the school, helping me transition into an engineering curriculum," Lieutenant Harvey said. Her resolve to make it (she graduated in March) quickly firmed up when she saw early on "they really want you to graduate, and the academic and military staff support is always there to help."


The spectrum of technology encompassing the field of electronic warfare would challenge even the most highly educated among us. The foundation on which the success of EW rests is solidly embedded in the basic high-technology sciences. Radar, microwaves, electro-optics, computer design, digital signal processing, sensors and propagation are examples.

To handle this broad range of disciplines, the typical EW student upon his arrival at the NPS is provided a carefully planned set of courses which must be passed before taking the later capstone EW courses. The thrust of this program is not intended to transform him into a sophisticated weapons systems designer. The aim is to instill a fundamental knowledge of how these systems function and stress the operational environment in the fleet. Emphasis is placed on future shifts and advances in technology.

The preparatory courses occupy the first year and half of study. The final two quarters are spent in the EW systems courses, experience tours and thesis research.

The EW curriculum subject matter is constantly being scrutinized to ensure it is technologically up to date and relevant. For the NPS to act as a source of intellectual and technical renewal, it must maintain continuous communication with the Navy's operational commands. This task is handled primarily by the EW military curricular officer, who resides at the school. Considerable insight is also gained by the faculty as they travel while doing research, presenting guest lectures and attending many symposia and briefings. The Navy's EW Pentagon Program Office also conducts a formal curriculum review of the NPS once every two years.

As the Navy adjusts to the radical shift in US military posture and the anticipated drawdown in forces, there is a corresponding NPS plan to shift the academic emphasis to ensure the needs of the Navy are met. The Navy's establishment of the Space and Electronic Warfare (SEW) Department (under VADM Jerry Tuttle, an NPS graduate from the early 1960s), which combines the new combat arena of space with the traditional roles of EW, is being carefully examined at the NPS. How the Navy eventually organizes to adjust to the new era is not fully resolved. The technology is well known, however, and it is to this that the school is addressing itself in its EW courses and laboratories. No definitive action has been taken to date at the NPS, but it would not be surprising to see a new curriculum established that expands on SEW and encompasses the present EW courses.


An extensive array of systems support the student's study efforts. For example, an observant visitor walking the campus will quickly spy on the roof of Spanagel Hall, the electrical engineering building, an antenna farm not unlike that encountered on board any modern ship. Spanagel, a six-story concrete monolith architecturally reminiscent of early World War II, sprouts a fair sampling of radar antennas spanning many years of technology. With wave guide runs tied directly to their corresponding transmitters and receivers immediately below, these grey ghosts of the fleet stare out over Monterey Bay. Seen by millions of motorists from Highway One, they have become a Monterey landmark.

Beneath these antennas, in cipher-locked laboratories, is one of the finest collections of operating radar, ESM and ECM systems available today -- each carefully instrumented by Ross Seely and his laboratory staff for academic instruction and laboratory work. Every course in radar and EW includes two to three hours a week of student hands-on involvement with fully operational radars and electronic warfare systems. Considerable emphasis is placed on the importance of these laboratory periods by the teaching staff.

In the past two years, the EW staff has mounted a vigorous (and quite successful) effort to upgrade the facilities by bringing aboard state-of-the-art systems presently in operational use by the military. With a well-timed assist by then-NPS commander RADM Ralph West, Jr., who issued an official call for help to his colleagues in the fleet, the first new systems began arriving in 1992. Included was a new EW mission planning system, the Integrated Many Radars On Many Targets (IMOM) model. Using a Sun-SPARC workstation, this EW and radar simulation program is presently still in use with Operation Southern Watch forces engaged in the Persian Gulf. It played a major role in EW mission planning during Desert Storm.

Now fully operational at the NPS, the IMOM is being absorbed into the EW and radar curriculum. Students using the IMOM can study in graphical real time the basic radar range equation coupled with current electronic order of battle data and digital world map data. With the IMOM, it becomes clear how defending radars interact with attacking aircraft and selected jamming platforms. The effects of terrain masking and SAM weapons capability are integrated into the scenario as well. With top-of-the-line systems such as this, the school is rapidly closing the "educational time gap" between modern fielded system technology and the classroom study of these advanced EW systems.

Another recent ad hoc acquisition is a complete and fully operational SLQ-32 shipboard EW system. This $3 million state-of-the-art ESM suite was delivered in December 1992 and will be NPS--operational by the spring of this year. It represents the latest technology in ship anti-missile defense and is presently installed on over 300 US Navy fleet ships as well as many foreign allies' ships. Plans are to integrate the SLQ-32 technology into the EW lectures and supporting laboratory sessions.

An aggressive program of internal research will be instituted as well once this system is fully absorbed. All of this is in addition to the present EW and Radar Laboratory facilities which include over 9,000 sq ft of lab space with 16 operational radars and 10 different ESM and ECM systems fully instrumented for instructional use.


As in any first class university, the NPS considers research essential to graduate education. Research ensures the continued advancement of Navy and DOD technology and keeps the school's academic programs at the cutting edge. It plays a key role in attracting and maintaining the quality faculty so necessary for continued success at the NPS.

With over 800 students graduating each year, the continuing search for suitable master's and PhD research topics is intense. Yet when the time arrives for a student and professor to team up and select a thesis, there is generally no shortage of topics to be explored. It is here that the constant interaction of staff and sponsor pays off. The student and his faculty advisor often travel together in search of the needed research data inputs.

With NPS student quality well known throughout the EW community, and the knowledge that NPS research costs are very favorable (the students' time is already paid for, since they are active duty officers), there is a long list of participating commands seeking NPS help to address their problems. The extensive pool of NPS graduates now scattered throughout the world on active duty and in the best government laboratories ensures a warm welcome in most United States centers of EW excellence.

There is another subliminal interaction students encounter when engaged in off-campus research. All students are anxious to choose a follow-on assignment as interesting and career-enhancing as possible, and most top-flight laboratories are well aware that their most valuable assets are people. What better opportunity is there than in the course of research for both sides to swap interests and needs, and possibly do some "selling." Much is accomplished during these visits.

A sample of recent EW research topics includes such varied subjects as countermeasure techniques for the Hawk and Patriot missile systems, investigations of Stealth technology, development of ECM/ECCM against laser weapons and integration of an EA-6B jamming algorithm into the IMOM mission planning system. A snapshot of a single year's measurable research output reveals for 1991 the following: 891 theses completed and 354 papers or book chapters written, with over 400 conference presentations given and over 120 technical reports issued. There were seven patents issued as well.

Still, the most important achievements of EW students engaged in research are the intangibles. The skills gained in problem definition, data collection, analysis and persistence stand them well in future careers. An added plus is the acquisition of essential writing and oral briefing skills.

Finally, the EW research project is one of the few opportunities afforded to young officers to participate in a truly creative, mostly self-guided learning experience in a discipline demanding fresh and unique insights for its continued success. When the time comes for a student/professor team to select an EW thesis topic, one major cornerstone thought dominates: The work must be supportive of the goals and aims of operational naval forces. This requirement is not a constraint, given the vast array of technological needs of the Navy.


After 84 years of duty, the Naval Postgraduate School has, through its students, participated in conflicts too numerous to mention. It has educated uncountable Naval officers and has been instrumental in keeping our military strong and our nation free.

To this day it continues to accept without hesitation this mandate to teach. Day in, day summers parties after the big game...and no question of loyalty. There is simply a never-ending quest for knowledge, for achievement, for responsibility. In these days of overwhelming change, one fact shines like a beacon: "Education is the key to a free society." And the corollary to that beam of light as seen through the recent fog of war is: "No society (in this world today) can any longer remain free without a well-educated military."

This essential task, education, the raison d'etre for the Naval Postgraduate School since it began in 1909, has never changed. The quality and success of our graduates is a reflection of the motto on the school's seal: "Excellence through Education."

Prof. Fred Levien has been teaching EW, radar and microwave courses at the Naval Postgraduate School since 1990. For the prior 20 years, he managed high-tech companies in the Silicon Valley. He retired a commander in the US Navy in 1989 and has authored one of Artech House's most popular books on microwaves.
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Title Annotation:electronic warfare education
Author:Levien, Fred
Publication:Journal of Electronic Defense
Date:Aug 1, 1993
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