Military & Aerospace

Synergence of Electronic Warfare & Air Defence
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 04 Jan , 2019

Electronic Warfare (EW) covers the entire spectrum of war. In conventional war, the EW battle would have started long before the first exchange of bullets takes place between the belligerents. EW in future battlefield will be a deciding factor between victory & defeat. All arms & services in Army using Electro Magnetic (EM)spectrum for various applications, especially for non-communication purpose must gear up to face the challenge & ensure survivability in intense EW environment. Modern military forces rely heavily on a variety of complex, high technology, electronic offensive and defensive capability. It has been proved beyond doubt that the forces, which exploit the EM Spectrum to the hilt, will emerge as the winner. In the last two decades, EW has played a significant role in the wars that have taken place in and around the Gulf region. Thus, control of the EM spectrum has a major impact on the success of military operations.

The beginning of EW as a warfare can be traced back to USSR-Japanese War in the year 1905, however, EW came into its own during the Second World War where it was used extensively by the Allies against the German air navigation system used to guide the Luftwaffe in night raids. The well documented campaign wherein EW emerged as a part of warfare was evident in the Tobruk (Africa) Campaign which witnessed interception of radio signals of British Army by the Germans to ascertain the exact location of troops deployment and courses of action. The integrated EW was used for the first time during the1967 Six Day War. The period of the Cold War saw exponential growth in EW technologies. There are numerous instances like Arab-Israel War (1993), Bekka Valley (1982) where the electronic spectrum was used to gain ascendency over the adversary.

Evolution of EW as a Domain of Warfare

Growing Dependency on EM Spectrum. Modern warfare is characterised by technological advances, rapid tempo of operations, increased ranges, accuracy and lethality of weapon system, and increased distances between forces. In this scenario, it becomes imperative, that forces spread over vast areas remain connected with one another in a web of net-centric communication. Such connectivity is considered to be a life-line support for their smooth conduct of operations in an increasingly flatter hierarchy of command and control. In addition, the galloping technological complexities of weapons in today’s battlefield have one common thread, i.e. their ever increasing dependence on the electronics and EM spectrum. This dependence can also be interpreted in terms of their vulnerability, since higher is the degree of dependence on the EM spectrum, higher will be the vulnerability of the system to an attack on the same. In combat, therefore, own and friendly forces would aim to secure for themselves, an optimal and unhindered exploitation of the EM spectrum, while trying to deny the same to the adversary.

EW and Technology. An operational environment includes physical area as well as information domain that shapes the operational environment. Technology today, especially in the communication realm, is rapidly changing with heavy dependence on spectrum usage. The rapid proliferation in the communication system has made spectrum dominance a new high ground for any military warfare. Thus, there is always a race between communication technology and advancement of EW equipment to counter or address threats.

EW as a New Dimension of Warfare. The modern battlefield will be heavily dependent on technology to provide the decisive edge in the war at all levels to include tactical, operational as well as strategical. The use of EM spectrum for conduct of operations in contemporary dimensions i.e. air, land, sea and space is inevitable. The battles will be fought in all these dimensions simultaneously, thus utilising the most potent weapon system available today. To mitigate the challenges of spectrum utilisation world over, armies are moving towards fighting concepts based on usage of EM spectrum as a weapon platform. The EW has gradually metamorphosed from its nascent stage to its current manifestation of EM Spectrum Operations (EMSO). The EM Spectrum is, hence, serving as the core domain for all dimensions of warfare.

Options for Employment of EW. EW as a new dimension of warfare can be employedin various stages of operations, as under:-

•  Option 1: Independent Entity. The option entails employment of EW as an independent entity as per the progress of operations. The EW capability can be exploited to shape the battlefield prior to launch of own ground forces. The option will involve paralysing enemy command and control along with equipment to a certain degree which will facilitate conduct of operations by balance of the forces. However, with the present holding of equipment the end state likely to be achieved will be much below the desired results.

•  Option 2: As Part of Spectrum Warfare. In case of a scenario wherein physical contact with enemy is to be avoided/ delayed for national and strategic objectives, all components of spectrum warfare including Information Warfare& Cyberspace to be employed along with EW to achieve the maximum desired result. Such employment will be able to neutralize the enemy to a large extent leading to chaos and confusion which can subsequently be exploited by own forces. However, time delay in effect achieved and subsequently exploited by ground forces may provide enemy with the opportunity to recuperate.

•  Option 3: Integrated Employment. The option entails simultaneous employment of EW along with ground forces and other components of spectrum warfare to achieve the desired end state. The employment may be simultaneous in time and space so as to exploit the gains at all levels. However, it will necessitate detailed planning, command and control.

Convergence of EW & Air Defence (AD). By virtue of being the major users of the EM (Non-Communication) spectrum through use of a host of Surveillance Radars, Tactical Control radars, Fire Control Radars and weapon guidance radars, Air Defence is central to EW (Non-Communication) besides several other users like Infantry, SATA etc. Since the entire canvas of the Air Defence weapons in general and Ground Based Air Defence Weapon System (GBADWS) in particular, is deeply immersed in, and is heavily dependent upon the EM spectrum, its vulnerability to the soft-kill threat is very high, requiring suitable measures for ensuring their survivability and unhindered operation against electronic (soft) degradation/ destruction. In addition, there is a need to build the capability in the said weapons for carrying out offensive use of EM energy not only to ensure their own survivability/functionability, but also, to degrade/suppress/destroy any incoming aerial threat vehicle through soft-kill option.

The EW domain of Air Defence pertains to the non-communication range of EM spectrum. The constituents of this domain, though commonly known, involves Electronic Support Measure or ES (Electronic Support), Electronic Counter Measure or EA (Electronic Attack) and Electronic Counter Counter Measure (ECCM) or EP (Electronic Protection).There is an imperative requirement for a set of means that need to be either inbuilt or be available through equipment placed alongside the GBADWS, which may provide them all the three capabilities mentioned above. The cumulative capability of the GBADWS and the said ‘means’ should be such, as to first detect and identify the signal of the adversary’s airborne EW devices and then to degrade/ nullify them to an extent that they can neither effectively use their own combat means nor suppress/ degrade the electronic/ EM capability of own GBADWS. This will permit the latter, unhindered electronic operation freedom. In essence therefore, the requirement of ES, EA and EP capability to be either inbuilt in the GBADWS or be provided through equipment placed alongside for unhindered operation of such weapons in the battlefield.

1)  The latest technology being used for EA gives rise to the necessity to have effective EP for own EW system. In addition to the erstwhile ECM, the EA function includes the use of Directed Energy Weapons (DEW), Anti-Radiation Msls (ARM), and Electromagnetic and Nuclear Pulses (EMP and NEMP) to destroy enemy electronic equipment. Recent employment of EW technology in the domain of EAthat are cause of concern are given as under :

•  Khibiny Air Borne EW Suite. Employment of Khibiny EW Suite by Russia has successfully demonstrated the EW capability against advanced communication technology of USS Donald Cook, which was deployed in the Black Sea and was equipped with onboard ‘AEGIS Combat System’. On 12 Apr 2014, an unarmed Su-24 of the Russian Air Force, equipped with the Khibiny ECM Suite, made twelve low-level runs over the USS Donald Cook; ignoring repeated warnings from the ship. This incident was reported extensively by the Russian media as a case of a Russian EW super weapon rendering the defences of a state-of-the-art US ship redundant. To have effective protection against the Khibiny like technology, there is an ever growing requirement of pursuing counter technology in own Air Defence system/equipment. The latest technologies like DRFM, Frequency Agility, EM Spectrum Expansion may have the solution to offer.

•  Dply of the Russian Krasukha– 4 EW Suite at Latakia Airfield. The Syrian crisis have afforded Russia with an opportunity to display mil hardware on an unprecedented scale wherein it deployed its most modern Krasukha-4 Jammer system in Syria against the Syrian rebels. The Krasukha-4 functions at the cutting edge of technology. It is a mobile ground-based jammer which can interfere with the surveillance radars or Low Earth Orbit (LEO) military satellite such as the US Lacrosse/Oynx series, AWACS radars, surveillance radars and Global Positioning System (GPS)/guidance systems onboard drones. In effect, it can create an invisibility dome of 300 KM where friendly forces can operate with impunity. In such scenario, own Air Borne EW suite need to cater for varying frequency requirements, capability to work through jamming, EM hardening of on-board EW system. Krasukha EW Suite has raised the difficulty levels for advanced fighter aircrafts to locate targets and execute their missions.

•  Use of Electromagnetic Emission Control (EMCON), the electromagnetic hardening of electronic equipment, EW frequency conflict removal, communication security (COMSEC),EM Interference (EMI) / EM Compatibility (EMC), Electronic masking, EW reprogramming are some of the measures which can overcome EAto some extent.

EA Manifestation. EA uses EM energy, directed energy, or anti-radiation weapons to attack personnel, facilities or equipment with the intent of degrading, neutralising or destroying enemy combat capability. Activities related to EA are either offensive or defensive which includes Counter Measures, EM deception, EM intrusion, EM jamming, EM pulse, Electronic probing.

•  Anti-UAV Operations. One of the major Air Borne threats ie Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are now being tackled using effective EW system. Either by spoofing the satellite based navigation signals or by hacking / modifying the telemetry/uplink command signals, EW system have adequately demonstrated their efficacy. The latest state-of-the-art Anti-Unmanned Aerial Vehicle System was used extensively by Russia in Syria against Drone attacks. The Repellant Anti UAV system equipped with passive Unmanned Aerial Vehicle detection and active jamming suppression capability, could jam simultaneously over 12 frequencies, targeting satellite navigation system, telemetry and uplinks in Line-of-Sight, at ranges upto 30 kms. All the drones during the swarm attack by rebels were detected, tracked and neurtalised including taking over the control of drones. Soft kill option for negating Unmanned Aerial Vehicle threat offer many advantages vis-à-vis hard kill options which are often not successful. Soft kill measures integrated with hard kill options is the need of the hour for any EW force.

•  EA: Radar Jamming. Jamming is the most potent capability during any EA operations. Before launch of airborne / ground campaign, the blanking of surveillance radars in particular area of operation serves as a Force Multiplier. Not only the surveillance radars, the Air Defence Fire Control radars operating in Tactical Battle Area, when jammed, are rendered ineffective to take on any air threat. Radar spoofing poses equivalent threat to all radar operations. The Gulf War EW operations of blanking all radars prior to air/ground attack, disabling of AEGIS system by Khibiny EA have proved the prominence of EW in warfare. The Next Generation Jammer (NGJ), the niche technology being developed, will be able to avoid being targeted by EW system and would launch EA of its own against threats. Such integrated system is the future of EW.

Challenges / Peculiarities of EW Equipment

Many present Air Defence systems fall woefully short of capability to counter technology like stealth, Anti-Radar Missile etc, which are either presently possessed or under some stage of acquisition by major nations. In order to overcome these severe limitations, there is an urgent need to upgrade our existing Early Warning& Fire Control radars with capability like Anti-DRFM, Anti-Stealth etc as a short term goal. As a mid & long term goal, we must endeavour to induct in our inventory, those state of the art system which have capability not only to negate the contemporary threat but also cater for futuristic development by having features like Phased Array, Multi-static radars, passive radars with wide spectral bandwidth & DEWs to name a few.

Development of technology/tactics in the field of EW are evolutionary. It has been seen that once a country develops a particular technology, its opponent develops a counter technology within a short span of time. The pace of this evolutionary process may be taken as a measure of the imp being given by modern nation/states. In such a dynamic process when the tech is changing everyday and new counter tech are being developed, procurement of EW equipment presents a dilemma.

The time lag, between conceptualization of EW requirement, its development and finally induction, must be minimal. In Indian context, following challenges are foreseen:-

  • EW technology is a special, niche, highly classified having low density. Moreover, it is not available in open domain.
  • Extremely Hi-Tech, complex & integrated EW equipment.
  • Limited vendors available for R&D and prototype production.
  • Limited indigenous capability – especially latest technology.
  • Rapid obsolescence due to fast emerging technologies world over.
  • High cost factor which directly affects the defence budget.


EW, though seemingly silent, is the most potent form of warfare today. Even a small force employing EW can play havoc on a numerically superior enemy force. Military operations are being exec in an increasingly complex EM environment. Today, Magnetic environment devices are being used either as stand alone or in network by civil as well as military organisations for intelligence, communication, navigation, sensing, information storage and processing and variety of other purposes. The increased portability and affordability of contemporary EW equipment guarantees that the EW environment in which military forces operate, will become more and more complex in the future.

With rapid advancements being made in technology, it is essential that the new technologies be integrated in our existing system and exploited to achieve synergy. Synthesis of Air Defence system and EW technology is the only rational method of retaining initiative in the modern battlefield, failing which an Air Defence network will fall prey to SEAD operations of enemy air power.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Capt Rajat Mahajan

an alumnus of Indian Military Academy, Dehradun was commissioned into an Air Defence Missile Regiment in 2015. The officer is a B.Tech graduate in Electronics and Communication engineering before joining Army and has excelled in major professional courses he has attended.

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One thought on “Synergence of Electronic Warfare & Air Defence

  1. Great article sir.
    Indian forces need these systems. Specially when we have a doctrine like cold start then we direly need a system like krasukha. It will reduce some difficulties to operate in hostile territory and our forces would dominate the enemy with full force.

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