Defeating inbound threats to naval vessels is now too fast to be left to a man behind a gunsight. Threats must now be defeated using electronic subterfuge and technological decoys.
Electronic Warfare (EW) in the context of surface warships entails action to exploit the electromagnetic spectrum which encompasses interception and identification of electromagnetic emissions, the employment of electromagnetic energy and directed energy to reduce or prevent hostile use of the electromagnetic spectrum, and actions to ensure its effective use by friendly forces. Overall, this is an extremely sensitive domain which navies and original equipment manufacturers are reticent to discuss, which emparts to this author just how important EW is in the modern battle-space.
In short, EW entails intercepting electromagnetic signals, jamming signals, and/or using signals or decoys to deceive or attack a foe. The EW domain also includes a growing importance in Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) which comprises either individually or in combination: Electronic Intelligence (ELINT), Communications Intelligence (COMINT), and Foreign Instrumentation Signals Intelligence (FISINT).
Modern naval ship design also takes EW into account, specifically, considerable efforts are taken to reduce a ship’s radar cross section, and to suppress or mask the electromagnetic vulnerabilities of its sensors.
One can arguably say that a significant growing threat to surface ships comes in the form of supersonic and hypersonic anti-ship missiles. These missiles pose a serious threat either through a function of their speed, or the intelligence within them: ie. smarter capability through design (such missiles can incorporate dual seekers – imaging infrared and radar) and the incorporation of electronic protection measures. Current methods to kinetically defeat these threats, either through missiles or close-in weapons stations, are becoming less and less capable, which means that surface ships are using EW to a greater extent to counter the supersonic and hypersonic anti-ship missile threat.
EW serves as a major element in supporting warship survival and situational awareness for ship and task force commanders. In broad overview, current naval EW systems are important as they provide an additional layer of mission protection and mission support. EW systems create a fusion of various aspects such as sensitive and selective Electronic Support (ES) sensors including Radar ES, Communication ES, and Infrared Search and Track (IRST), all feeding real time processed data to create a dynamic Electronic Order of Battle (EOB) picture for further fusion at the ship’s Combat Management System (CMS). Additional EW layers constituting protection are Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) or Electronic Attack (EA) subsystems such as Passive (decoys) and Active (Jamming and Seduction) that are triggered by the ES System.
Inbound missiles threatening a surface ship can be detected in a number of ways, primarily through onboard IRST and ES sensors.
A well known passive electronic attack decoy system is Rheinmetall Canada’s Multi Ammunition Softkill System (MASS) system. This countermeasure system provides protection against modern sensor-guided missiles, as well as from asymmetric terrorist-type threats. With the information from on-board sensors and systems, the MASS calculates the best missile defeat solution and, being fully trainable in azimuth and elevation, then fires the decoys and places them in time in the optimal position without the ship having to manoeuvre to obtain an effective countermeasure solution. Fully automatic, MASS offers tactical, operational, and logistical advantages, and can be installed on any type of ship. It can be integrated into naval command and control systems, but can also operate in a stand-alone mode. The decoys that MASS salvos with its current ammunition is a mixture of chaff and also EO/IR/laser obscurants, and will eventually include the capability to salvo corner reflectors. Also compatible with the Rheinmetall MASS launcher is Airborne Systems’ ADS103 off-board corner reflector (OCR) naval decoy which protects ships from RF-missile threats. The ADS103 soft-kill countermeasure is designed to defeat threats with chaff discriminators.
In a similar fashion, large floating decoy systems like Airborne Systems’ FDS3 floating passive off-board corner reflector naval decoys protect ships from RF-missile threats. The DLF3 is a soft-kill countermeasure which is non-kinetic and can function in all weather conditions. The UK Royal Navy (RN), the US Navy (USN), the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), and the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) all rely on Airborne Systems’ DLF3 Corner Reflector off-board passive RF decoys to protect their ships.
Canada’s Active Jamming
On the Active side of ECM are systems like Lockheed Martin Canada’s SLQ-503 RAMSES (Reprogrammable Advanced Multi-mode Shipborne ECM System), an integrated noise and deception jammer with the ability to jam at long ranges and deceive at closer distances. Systems like this can either blind a missile, or work in combination with decoys. Newer systems are being designed to repeat signals back to the missile – an echo of its radar – which can be out of phase or out of polarity thereby serving to disrupt the missile.
In the case of RAMSES, the jamming parameters can be updated as the result of information analysed during engagements. RAMSES can operate continuous wave and high-pulse jamming with high effective radiated power. Multiple mode and multiple target jamming is also possible. The RAMSES system has been fielded for quite some time, so Lockheed Martin Canada is in the process of upgrading the system to the RAMSES Baseline II configuration.
Lockheed Martin Canada Rotary and Mission Systems (RMS) also produces the RAVEN on-board Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) and Electronic Attack (EA) system which provides modern, effective jamming through a wide range of techniques including deception, noise, and combinations thereof to deny the exploitation of the electromagnetic spectrum by hostile forces. RAVEN provides 360-degree Anti-Ship Missile Defence (ASMD) self-protection for all naval platforms and is highly scalable.
RAVEN builds upon the RAMSES ECM system capabilities in service today with the Royal Canadian Navy and supported by Lockheed Martin Canada since 1986. RAVEN’s modern technologies provide an open architecture that enables the system to evolve more quickly to modern threats. RAVEN’s key capabilities and technologies include: Predictive Digital radio frequency memory-based (DRFM-based) ECM Receiver; Prediction-Based Electronic Attack; Coherent/Non-coherent Electronic Attack; and System-On-Chip Technology
Lockheed Martin Canada also produces Coronis, claimed as the world’s first fully integrated, automated, Windows-based EW Operational Support solution. Coronis follows the success of Lockheed Martin Canada’s EW support products including the Canadian Navy’s Automated Maritime Electronic Warfare Library Generation System (MEWLGS) and the UK’s Royal Navy Electronic Warfare Operational Support to Maritime Capability (EWOS to MC). Coronis provides a fully functional core EW Framework consisting of a data warehouse, analysis tools and customisable work flow. The data warehouse provides a single consolidated data repository for all EW operations.
Israel’s Big Picture Approach
Elbit Systems EW and SIGINT-Elisra Naval systems’ product line includes a wide spectrum of EW solutions (ES and ECM). Elisra’s Naval EW systems are used by various navies worldwide including the Israeli Navy, RCN, RNZN and other navies in South America and Asia.
These systems are able to provide passive sensors consisting of light Radar Warning Receivers, compact ES systems, and also high level ES systems. These sensors cover very wide radar and communication frequency bands, as well as optical bands. Also produced are active ECM systems with high Effective Radiated Power (ERP) and state-of-the-art ECM techniques. Additional capabilities include ELINT systems.
Among the systems provided to the Asia Pacific market is Aqua Marine, a Naval Radar Electronic Support Measures (RESM), Counter Electronic Support Measures (CESM), Laser Warning System (LWS) and Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) suite for all surface vessel types. It is a lightweight, small footprint system providing highly needed capabilities of situational awareness, ship self-defence and electronic intelligence. Designed to operate in littoral and blue waters, Aqua Marine is able to deal simultaneously with the most advanced threats. Sophisticated software detects, analyses and identifies threats, while reporting to the operator and to the ship’s command and control. Aqua Marine enables connectivity between platforms and allows multiple platforms to communicate with each other for mission coordination.
Additionally Elbit Systems provides the NATACS 2020 Naval Tactical COMINT/DF System, and the iSNS (Immune Satellite Navigation System). NATACS 2020 is a new generation of on-board Communications Intelligence (COMINT) Direction Finding (DF) systems that delivers a full naval picture through sophisticated handling of agile communications. NATACS’ scanning rates enable the handling of extremely dense electromagnetic environments in the HF/VHF/UHF/HUHF frequency bands, characterized by frequency hopping, burst and other agile transmissions. The system’s COMINT antenna can be integrated with an ESM antenna – thus allowing maximum utilization of the vessel’s mast, as well as enabling significant space savings. Combining the data extracted by NATACS 2020 with the data obtained from on-board ESM systems enables completion of the mission-critical tactical naval picture.
According to Elbit, iSNS is an exceptionally effective Global Positioning System, Electronic Counter-Countermeasure (GPS ECCM) system that ensures reliable, non-stop GPS operation. The iSNS solution provides full jamming immunity for multiple satellite channels, and handles multiple interfering signals and/or jammers operating on concurrent frequencies.
Rafael Advanced Defense Systems all-in-one SEWS-DV on-board/off-board EW ship protection suite effectively addresses the challenge of advanced Electronic Counter-Countermeasures (ECCM) threats. The system deceives and disrupts hostile radar signals. In the event of a missile attack, ships can salvo C-Gem, a shipbourne off-board active decoy as part of a vessels protective suite. Once launched, C-Gem floats down using a parachute, all the while signaling to lure a missile off its designated track.
The Australian Government has invested almost $40 million to support the development of Electronic Warfare technology for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). The Cuttlefish system’ is being developed through collaboration between BAE Systems Australia and the DST Group. The technology is unique in that it protects the integrity of RAN platforms from an adversary’s surveillance in real time. Funds will enable BAE Systems to continue to mature the Cuttlefish capability culminating in sea trials in 2019. BAE Systems Australia chief executive Glynn Phillips said: “The Company is at the forefront of Australian electronic warfare innovation that enables military platforms to operate in the presence of hostile electronic signals… We have purposefully worked to create a unique domestic capability in Australia that is today an integral part of a stronger, more Sovereign Australian industry.”
Electronic warfare is a broad and necessarily secretive topic with many facets. This report has summarised some of the more public advances currently being fielded to day’s navies.