When you are as big and visible as a battleship on the high seas, you don’t even think about hiding.
So how do you avoid becoming a true sitting duck for a quick missile strike from an agile adversary on land or on sea?
Indeed, that’s why Electronic Warfare (EW) was invented; it, together with radar, was used to detect threats, take evasive action and, if needed, to launch countermeasures against any attack and its source.
However, the telecommunications boom, including networks of signals for billions of mobile phones and computers, has created massive congestion if not saturation in the radiofrequency spectrum. The result: it’s much more difficult to find ‘signals of interest’ in military terms; the arrival of 5G telecommunications and the internet of things are adding even more electromagnetic fog that obscures threat detection.
Separating the wheat from the chaff: the three missions of EW
In fact, separating the wheat from the chaff today is more like finding a needle in a haystack.
“That’s why Thales has reinvented Electronic Warfare,” says Philip Ventress, Head of Electronic Warfare Marketing and Product Strategy for the company. “First , we have transformed signal processing from analogue to digital. This allows us to sample the signal environment digitally. Second, we analyse the signals utilizing Artificial Intelligence to ascertain their identity.“
Patrick Agnieray, Electronic Warfare Product Line Manager, describes how this EW revolution is critical to the successive stages of missions. “First, there is Electronic Intelligence where EW provides details of emitters of interest around you and creates their electronic signatures for later processing by AI algorithms to identify them. The second stage of EW’s mission is electronic support, which provides situational awareness of all emitters that are tracking your ship or having an ability to send a missile toward you. Finally, the third stage is electronic protection, where EW detects an incoming missile and sets the stage for defensive measures.”
Assuring Situational Awareness and Tactical Advantage
“Digital EW means you lose less time, you see the missile before it sees you and, so, it saves lives. With better situational awareness, you can tell friend from foe more quickly and so you have more freedom to engage after challenging the adversary to identify itself,” Philip Ventress adds.
“Digital EW means you lose less time, you see the missile before it sees you and, so, it saves lives. " Philip Ventress, Head of Electronic Warfare Marketing and Product Strategy at Thales
Thales’ transformative Ultra-Wideband Digital Electronic Warfare technology supports armed forces on land as well as on the open seas. It provides the earliest possible warning of radar guided weapons, targeting systems or covertly operating forces. It can be used to collect intelligence to support troop movements and to monitor borders or choke points by gathering intelligence such as patterns of life or transmissions on land.
And by reinventing EW through digital, Thales has also solved the problem of upgrading equipment in case of changes or more congestion in the radiofrequency spectrum. Because it is software-based, there is no need to change hardware. So, algorithms can be changed through new software---even by the customer.
Yet, while Thales’s Digital EW plays an important role in supporting ground forces, it is most usually identified with the major fleets that have adopted it, including the UK and French fleets.
Phil Ventress talks about EW from his experience as an ex Serviceman. “To say that EW saves lives is a big claim, but I know that it is true. We are proud to have a 75-year heritage of protecting the French and UK navies by keeping them one step ahead of everyone else. Our Digital EW revolution will make sure that that remains true.”
So, thanks to Digital EW , Thales will continue to support armed forces on the sea or on the ground in a more complex environment, guaranteeing their operational superiority in addition to their force protection.