Silencing the bomb path.
The best form of protection, it is well known, is attack. To counter roadside bombs (a better term since the so-called IEDs are now in fact far from being improvised and many are produced in 'factories'), smarter approaches are to: a) use active protection, in the form of electronic countermeasures to neutralise the devices themselves and/or the detonation command, b) anticipate enemy moves by detecting insurgents while they are emplacing their devices or the devices themselves. Indeed when intelligence has failed to anticipate terrorists' moves, detection of devices during or immediately after their deployment remains the only option. It is however impossible to keep all routes employed by allied patrols under control 24 hours a day; different methods thus have to be developed in order to achieve an adequate level of effectiveness.
The successes of the so-called Task Force Odin (Observe, Detect, Identify and Neutralise)--a US Army task organised unit created in Iraq and equipped with unmanned airborne systems such as General Atomics Warrior Alpha drone and other aircraft such as the C-12R-based Arams (Aerial Reconnaissance Multi Sensor) equipped with a surveillance radar and electro-optical sensors--show how routine surveillance from the air is the best option to counter the threat. Not only do these missions allow one to deal with a wider spectrum of threats, but also to disrupt the insurgent organisations that are responsible for such operations. Various types of sensors can be used, mainly synthetic aperture radars, which normally feature a ground moving target indicator, and electro-optical sensors such as thermal imagers or daylight cameras. The General Atomics Lynx sar radar mounted on the Predator UAV is a typical solution, but the Selex Galileo Picosar radar can be installed on smaller drones to bring this 'Non-Traditional Istar' capacity to affordable levels. As for electro-optical systems, not only those mounted on drones are being used; targeting pods such as the Northrop Grumman/Rafael Litening, the Lockheed Martin Sniper, the Rafael Reccelite and other pods in service with western air forces are part of the counter-IED effort.
Datalinks provide imagery to both command posts and warfighters on the ground (if the latter are equipped with lightweight terminals such as the Rover (Remotely Operated Video Enhanced Receiver). Airborne electronic warfare assets have been recently employed to counter the threats along convoy routes and both manned and unmanned platforms are used to try to reduce the casualties generated by explosions.
Other solutions are also being considered: Stanford Research Institute (SRI) ground and foliage penetrating radars were also used as part of the US Air Force-sponsored Desert Owl programme and seemed to be able to detect objects buried in soil. Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) is working on different systems. Looking for light sources and other unusual optical features that are not normally present in the desert is another of the investigated paths. To this effect, the Uglares (Urban Ops Gated Laser Retro-reflection Scanner) is under development. Testing to evaluate detection performances shall take place at CFB Val-cartier in October 2009 and the development contract shall end in December 2009. A second path followed by DRDC is that of hyperspectral imaging, where an array of waveforms, ranging from visual to infrared, is used to amplify features that might indicate the presence of bombs. The hyperspectral solution is also followed by Selex Galileo, which is developing the Sim. GA avionic multi-sensor hyperspectral system that will include four hyperspectral/multispectral optical heads in the visible and near infrared, short wavelength infrared, mid infrared and thermal infrared bands, thus covering from the 0.4 [micro]m visible to the 12 urn thermal infrared bands. Such sensors should alert if the soil has been recently ploughed to hide an explosive device.
Jamming has become one of the most widespread methods to counter the high number of radio-controlled devices used along the roads to ambush convoys in the two current theatres of operation. Radio controls were the easiest way to detonate a bomb as they allowed terrorists to stay at a safe distance while observing the placement, allowing them to activate the system at the right moment and against the right target, hence the reason why over 70% of the explosives were radio-detonated in the 2005 to 2006 timeframe in Iraq. Initially vehicle-mounted wide-band jammers were developed with the aim of blocking any possible signal that could activate explosives hidden along a convoy route. The deployment of thousands of jammers in theatre led inevitably to a saturation of the electromagnetic spectrum; quite often the use of barrage jamming, based on systems which saturated the spectrum on selected frequencies, blocked the troops own communications or their blue-force tracking systems. This led to 'smarter' systems known as 'reactive jammers' or 'spot jammers', which sensed electromagnetic activity and blocked those deemed dangerous. Such systems, although more complicated, had the further advantage of being less power hungry.
A third technique proposed by the industry is that of high-power microwave systems that either prematurely-detonate bombs or create inducted currents in their circuits at a voltage that disrupts not only bomb receivers but also electronic denotation circuits. The increase in the use of jammers has led the insurgents to reconsider the use of radio commands using instead infrared commands or wire systems, the former being more difficult to handle while the latter are more difficult to conceal.
With the acquisition of EDO (which in its turn acquired Med-Eng), ITT has become one of the leading companies in triggering-jammers. EDO Shortstop Electronic Protection System evolved into the Warlock family. Warlock Green is a passive jammer that scans a series of target frequency bands then transmits a jamming signal upon detection of activity. Operating in the 20 to 500 MHz bands with an output of 25 W, it uses a single antenna and does not cover some mobile phone frequencies. Warlock Red is a programmable active jammer made of two units each targeting different frequency bands. It operates in the 20 to 100 MHz low-band and in the 250 to 500 MHz mid-band, respectively with a 5 W and a 1 W output. A new system known as the JCrew 2.1 (for Joint Crew, spiral 2.1)--technical data of which are classified--was ordered from EDO/ITT. Over 15,000 units have been acquired since mid 2007 with the latest order for an additional 4501 worth $ 317 million on 10 March 2009.
Crew (Counter Radio-controlled Electronic Warfare) systems have been deployed in great numbers especially in Iraq by US forces, together with other systems known as Warlock Blue, Ice, Mice, SSVJ, MMBJ, Cottonwood, Jukebox and Symphony. The latter vehicle-mounted programmable jammer system is produced by Lockheed Martin and Allen-Vanguard of Canada (recently acquired by Tailwind) for the US military; some systems have recently been sold to the Iraqi Army. Allen-Vanguard also produces a system known as Opus, which is based on the Symphony technical core and combines in a single unit the jammers known as 3130 and 3140.
L-3 Communications offers its Broad Shield Wide Band System and its Broad Shield Modular Vehicle System; while the former is a one-block system the latter is an amplifier and a black box which allows the inclusion of different frequencies. L-3 Communications provided its systems to some 19 coalition countries operating in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The radio-triggered bomb problem also draws attention outside the United States' field of influence. Elisra in Israel, for example, produces the Ejab (Electronic Jammer Against Bombs), which is a smart, vehicle-mounted jammer in operational use with the Israel Defense Force and other armed forces. Elisra is also offering solutions for urban applications: the Urbint family is a complete line of stand-alone, active and passive cellular units, which includes selective jamming solutions for target operations within urban environments. Tadiran, which is part of the Elisra Group, proposes a system to address the threat posed by cellular phones. Known as the Cellective, it jams specific cell phone transmissions in selected areas and operates over GSM frequencies in four bands. It is made of a monitoring module, a jamming module and a control and registration module. Netline of Israel produces the C-Guard VHP ECM IED modular multi-channel jammer that is offered in different configurations; standard vehicle mounted, compact and transportable. The C-Guard family also includes 'very high, high and low-power' cellular jammers.
Thales Land & Joint Systems Division entered the jamming market following the evolution towards more sophisticated systems such as spot jammers; the TRC-274 software-defined jammer has evolved into the TRC-274 FPJ (Force Protection Jammer) with built-in ESM allowing to analyse the threat in order to carry out focused jamming, although a selection between barrage jamming and spot jamming can be made by the user. The system operates in the 20 to 3000 MHz band and features a large triangular antenna covering various frequency bands; its frequency-jamming plan can operate on ten tables with 20 frequencies. This system is operated by three nations.
In the East
Ukrainian troops deployed downrange use the Garant jammer developed and manufactured by the Research Institute of Complex Automatisation of Donetsk. Operating in the 20 to 2500 MHz band the Garant is a wide-band barrage jamming system with a total output power of 230 W and a radio suppression distance of 75 to 5000 metres, depending on the parameters of the suppressed link. It consists of four radio-jamming modules with four different aerials that cover 13 separate jamming bands and has been installed on the T-55, BMP-60 and trucks.
Turkey is particularly active in the jamming field. Gate Elektronik provides its Convoy Bomb Jammer to national military and security forces. The jammer is a vehicle-mounted modular system operating on the 20 to 2500 MHz band and has been integrated in numerous cross-country vehicles and trucks. Another Ankara-based company, Microdis, offers its MCJ-3000 convoy jammer, with an output power of 500 W and frequencies between 20 and 3000 MHz. The system covers the 850 to 950 MHz and 1805 to 1880 MHz GSM bands, and with its seven aerials guarantees an effective radius of 60 metres around the vehicle.
At the last Idex exhibition in Abu Dhabi, Chinese companies were presenting their jamming systems: Xinshidai was showing its modular PB Frequency Jammer with a maximum output power of 190 W and a jamming radius of 50 to 70 metres, while CETC International proposed its Movable Motorarcade Protection System.
Germany Sweeps Wider
A different approach to the problem is that adopted by Rheinmetall Defence and Diehl BGT Defence, which since 2002 are cooperating in a programme sponsored by the German armed forces for a High Power Microwave system (HPM). The aim of this system is to induce peak voltages in the electronic detonating devices that either detonate the bomb at a safe distance or permanently damage the detonation system. Therefore an HPM would not only be effective against radio controlled devices, but also against those that are detonated by an electronic circuit such as a laser, infrared sensor or a timer, which overall represent 75 to 77% of the devices used by insurgents. The system generates a number of high-voltage electromagnetic pulses every second: according to the company medical tests have proven that it is not harmful to human beings. The system developed for the Bundeswehr should be ready within the year. Diehl BGT Defence intends to continue on its own in offering new versions of the system, and aims to integrate it in a vehicle and start field tests in early 2010 for fielding by late 2010.
While convoys are main targets for terrorists, dismounted patrols and disposal teams also have to deal with the threat. Military patrols are at risk both in open ground as well as in urban terrain, while disposal teams called in for neutralising explosive devices can become victim of the bomb itself, if it is remotely detonated by radio, or by a secondary explosive placed close to the first. Therefore numerous companies are developing man-portable systems.
Allen-Vanguard is proposing its Scorpion portable, configurable countermea-sure for bomb disposal operators; the system covers the full threat band and can be quickly and easily programmed. Snap-in/out electronic countermeasure modules allow one to adapt the configuration to the situation. The system, which can be carried as a backpack or handheld, weighs 7.7 kg.
Selex Communications' Guardian-W and Guardian-C2 architecture is centred on Direct Digital Synthesis (DDS) technology and allows all the systems to be field programmed for waveform techniques, such as wide-band/barrage and spot jamming. The two systems together provide continuous coverage capability from 25 MHz to 2.5 GHz at a power level of ten Watts per unit.
At least three Turkish companies are producing portable jammers. Gate Elektronik provides a DDS-based Manpack Jammer System with four antennas. The unit displays the bandwidth to be covered by that equipment. The manpack weighs 17 kg with batteries that provide four hours of continuous operation. The same company also provides a portable mobile phone jammer working in the GSM 900 and GSM 1800 bands with a one-watt output; known as SJ2003, it has the dimensions of a cigarette pack and has a two-hour working time.
The Microdis catalogue contains two manpack systems. Cansiper 1915 and Can-siper 1919 both working in the 20 to 500 MHz band as well as in the GSM 900 and GSM 1800 bands. The 1915 has three aerials, a total output of 30 Watts, a coverage of 20 metres and a weight of 5.5 kg with a battery ensuring two hours of continuous operation, while the latter has five aerials, a 60-watt output power, a 30-metre radius and a weight of 14 kg. The same company produces the NVJ 100 jammer, contained in a 23-kg portable case, with four aerials and an output power of 100 Watts, covering a radius of over 30 metres. The Ankara-based Atel has three manpack jammers; the MRJ-01, MRJ-02 and MRJ-03; their weight varies between 12.8 and 13.5 kg without batteries, the weight of the power pack oscillating between the standard battery (4.8 kg) the high capacity (5.4 kg) and the ultra-high capacity (7.0 kg). The main differences are in the bands covered, the 01 working on VHF, UHF. GSM and Bluetooth frequencies, the 02 in the 20 to 2500 MHz and the 03 in the 20 to 3000 MHz ranges.
According to statistics, there was a noticeable decrease in radio-triggered bombs in 2007 in Iraq. The number of such devices was down ten per cent amongst the ten explosive devices detonated every single day, which suggests that the use of jammers obliged the enemy to revert to less effective systems to detonate its explosive devices. However, as one US commander put it recently. "What ultimately defeated the IED threat and saved lives? Killing the network with intelligence-based, targeted operations and surveillance." Therefore more and more NT-Istar assets will be devoted to the counter-roadside bomb campaign.
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|Author:||Alpo, Paul V.|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2009|
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