Part I: The offensive EW concept; Tactical aircraft must take the offensive against future threats. (With Static and Sword).
The EW systems for self-protection were developed to counter radar threats as they became lethal to the aircraft. This traditional self-protection concept deals with the threat as one might approach peeling an onion, with priorities forming a series of layers. Unlike an onion, the aspects of the task most likely to bring tears to the eyes are widely regarded as the easiest to deal with.
The first priority is to counter the approaching missile by increasing the missile's miss distance. The second priority is to deceive or to "break" the lock of the threat's target acquisition sensor or fire control radar before launch, or even after launch, if the missile is semi-active homing. The third priority is to counter the acquisition phase of the threat's fire-control radar trying to deny successful lock on.
Taken as a whole, comparatively low priority is dedicated to deal with the threat's search phases. This is because it is extremely difficult to deal with air-search radars on a technical basis. Only a few of the world's nations have the ability to avoid detection by the air-search radars of a modern air-defense network through some combination of low-observable technology (stealth), signature damping, and jamming. More commonly, countermeasures to air search radars are found in tactics, such as terrain following or striking from unexpected quarters.
Self-protection concepts have evolved through few generations, the oldest of which are systems destined for aircraft survivability over the battlefield. These concepts employ the inner protection layer of the onion. Unfortunately, countering a threat in the terminal phase calls for "panic" (emergency weapon release) and mission abort. Thus, it is possible for an air defense unit to win an engagement with a combat aircraft even if the aircraft lives to fight another day. It could be argued that a mission aborted is a battle won by the defending side.
Rather than thinking about protection in terms of platforms, it is time to start thinking about it in terms of missions. Mission protection implies the survival of the platform and crew while at the same time encompassing the survival of the purpose that put them in harms way to begin with. A mission aborted is a mission that will have to be undertaken again, perhaps with a loss of operational surprise or other less than ideal conditions in play. Furthermore, there are few air forces that have the resources or leisure to stage sortie after sortie and above all there are particular missions where there is no substitute for success.
Modern self protection concepts for mission survivability employ the outer protection layers of the onion; countering the threats with sophisticated techniques that allow the aircraft successful ingress to attack the target within SAM protected zones and then egress to safety when the job is done.
A fundamental weakness of the platform self-protection concept is that supporting technologies are reaching the limits of cost effectiveness. Modern threats incorporate phased array radar technology, low probability of intercept capabilities, and effective ECCM. Maintaining and improving EW systems capabilities to counter improved and modern threats grows asymptotically expensive while the outcome merit of "total EW effectiveness" is almost unchanged. EW systems for platform protection are growing as expensive as the threats, which enjoy the distinct advantage of being procured in greater quantity than platform EW systems (perhaps excepting expendables rounds).
Moreover, the problem of protecting a platform is generally more difficult than deterring or destroying it. Intimate intelligence database for each threat and for each threat-mode is required in order to generate effective techniques. Gathering this data and maintaining this database updated requires large budgets and massive effort. There is only one short window of opportunity to counter the threat, and false data might cause fatalities. On the other hand, the threat has the advantage of surprise and superior start position.
Operational requirements and budget constrains should require more cost-effectiveness out of modern EW suites and systems. Analyzing the reasons for the weakness and limitations of the self-protection concepts finds the basic "protection-limited" operational requirement and a defensive mindset. Modern air forces would benefit from considering what might be called the Offensive EW Concept (OEWC). 'Best defense is offense" is the philosophy of this concept. The fighter (with its EW system) is able to turn the tables on the air-defense system. This is a dramatic change in the combat relationship between the SAM and the fighter.
The first step of "going offensive" is upgrading the operational requirements list for the EW systems. EW systems and suites are usually the most sophisticated electronic asset of the fighter. The system usually incorporates a long-range detection function, fast and capable processing functions, and an ultra wide band transmitting function. The EW system is tuned to serve self-protection purposes but leaves its fine potential as a sensor for electronic attack unexploited.
The detection function of the radar-warning receiver is very sensitive and able to detect numerous threats at beyond visual range in numerous radar modes. However, for self-protection purposes, the sensitivity is usually "tuned down" and filtered so that only a few threats and threats modes will reach the attention of the aircrew. The processing units gather data from the detection function and from the fighter's avionics. Fusing this data can generate new and vital information. However, most of this data is filtered and only a small portion of it is used by the sell-protection system.
The OEWC concept is a SEAD doctrine based upon EW means. The EW system capabilities enable the fighter to be first to engage the threat. The EW system will detect, locate and identify the threat at beyond visual range and before it start its hostile engagement procedure. The fighter will then be able to fully exploit its natural advantages of maneuverability and mobility against the threat.
Detection capability at beyond visual range provides the pilot with all the required information and will give him the time to prepare and plan his attack. The EW suite generates combat situational picture 360 degrees around the platform. The EW combat picture has depth of many layers: target location, target dynamics, target mode of operation, target intentions, weapons launch, etc. All of this is vital offensive information to the pilot. Threat information will provide accurate geo-location of the threat by implementing state-of-the-art location finding technologies. Threat information will also provide detailed identification of threat type, threat "tail-number" and threat mode of operation.
In approaching to attack the threat, the jammer function will play a major role. Using the EW "onion shell" comparison, the jammer will have to deal with the outer shells of the threat (search and detection). The jammer will have to provide the best electronic environment to help the attack mission. At the long range, the jammer's task is to saturate the threat or to deceive it (or both). The jam mer will deny any relevant information of fighters location and intentions from the threat. At later attack phases, in close range, the jammer will also provide self-protection functions.
Data fusion of EW data with avionics data is another important layer of the OEWC. Fusing the detection function data with the data of other weapon systems and avionic systems, such as radar, targeting systems and pods, Link-16, IFF interrogator etc., will generate a comprehensive situational awareness for the aircrew. Fusing all the data will generate new targets that might otherwise go unnoticed. These targets are fused out of partial detections of each system that might otherwise be rejected due to lack of information. However, combining the partial data from all the systems will generate a legitimate fused target. Every threat or target will be analyzed and displayed to its last relevant detail. Threats and targets data fusion will also increase the accuracies of the data parameters (direction, location, angles, state of operational mode etc.) allowing improved operational effectiveness.
The OEWC is capable of high accuracies of direction and sometimes range. These capabilities are part of the cooperation with avionics and the data fusion. Combined with all the complementary ESM, data the OEWC is capable of generating targeting, weapon cueing and offensive recommendations to the pilot. By using network such as the Link-16, all of its capabilities and accuracies are increased while gathering the information from what has become a multi-source system. Networking sensors will increase the chances of mission success. The targeting function will be comprehensive and accurate, while the jamming function will be coordinated between all the attackers to gain best saturation and deception results.
The OEWC will enable operational requirement organizations and platform designers to design an EW system that will be an inherent function of the fighter's avionics and fighter's missions. In the next few years we will witness the EW suite becoming one of the most important systems in the fighter due to its advanced offensive capabilities. The OEWC concept exploits the EW system resources and capabilities to its maximum. Using the offensive concept as part of the avionics or as a weapon will result in expanded and improved operational capabilities even when using the same basic EW system. The future fighter generation - F-22, JSF, F-16 Block 60, etc. -- are already employing some major parts of the offensive concept.
Lt. Colonel Omer Regev (ret.) served 22 years of operational service. He is an expert in operational requirements for EW & electronic systems, as well as in flight-testing electronic systems, avionics, and weapons. Currently he is president of OMERTEC Ltd., a consulting and marketing firm based in Israel.
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|Title Annotation:||electronic warfare|
|Comment:||Part I: The offensive EW concept; Tactical aircraft must take the offensive against future threats. (With Static and Sword).(electronic warfare)|
|Author:||Lt. Colonel Regev, Omer|
|Publication:||Journal of Electronic Defense|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2001|
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