The introduction of reliable, long-range radar systems during World War II represented a fundamental change in the nature of warfare. For the first time, it was possible for friendly forces to see the enemy from a distance without being detected— an incredible advantage. Naturally, the emergence of a new technological innovation motivated other parties to find ways to counter it, leading to the development of radar jamming and other deception technologies.
In this article, we will discuss jamming and deception in detail, and how innovations like the Next Generation Jammer are shaping the next chapter in the electronic warfare arms race.
Degrading Enemy Radars
Radar jamming is a form of electronic countermeasures (ECM), designed to degrade the effectiveness of enemy radar systems. Usually, this is done by emitting radio signals at specific frequencies which impair the ability of radar systems to accurately detect and depict objects in the operational environment. This can generate “noise” in the radio spectrum which will confuse or mislead the enemy and affect their decision-making accordingly.
Popular Types of Radar Jamming
There are multiple types of noise jamming. The simplest is Spot Jamming, which involves concentrating jamming power on a single frequency. In previous eras, spot jamming could be very effective when the military understood which types of radars enemy forces were likely to be using and on what frequencies. While spot jamming can be effective against a specific frequency, all the enemy had to do is switch to another frequency, as frequency-agile radar systems are designed to do, and the jamming was rendered ineffective. As this became feasible, more sophisticated techniques were needed.
Barrage and Sweep Radar Jamming techniques were developed in response to this challenge. Sweep jamming focuses the full power of the jammer one frequency at a time while allowing for quick changes between frequencies. Barrage jamming involves jamming more than one frequency at a time, which certainly “covers more ground” in a manner of speaking, but the power of the jamming is lessened since it is dispersed across multiple frequencies at once. Related techniques like Pulse Radar Jamming have been developed which add an additional layer of protection for friendly forces by obscuring the location from which the jamming signal is emanating.
All of these innovations have, of course, spurred the evolution of sophisticated radar systems like AESA, which offer a higher degree of resistance to jamming and a much lower probability of intercept than older systems.
The Even More Devious - Radar Spoofing
Radar jamming as a concept is simple, and dangerously effective when it works. Radar spoofing is arguably even more devious. Spoofing is not so much about interfering with the functionality of radar systems, but rather tricking them into displaying inaccurate information to deceive enemy forces. Spoofing systems like the Digital Radio Frequency Memory Units (DRFM) recently ordered by the US Navy can confuse the enemy by replaying captured pulses with a delay, making a target appear to move when it may not be. These units can also trick enemy radars into perceiving more than one target.
While this is only one example of radar spoofing, the fact that the military is beginning to invest more heavily in this technology demonstrates a renewed commitment to excellence and superiority in electronic warfare — a domain in which the US military is, in some ways, playing catch up.
The Next Generation of Radar Jamming & EW Tech
To close the electronic warfare gap, the Department of Defense is investing in new radar jamming technologies. But in the 21st century, it’s not going to be enough to have defense systems in place only. The military must have effective offensive electronic warfare capabilities as well. This is where the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ) comes in.
The NGJ will replace the AN/ALQ-99 system currently integrated into the EA-18G Growler, the Navy’s specialized electronic warfare aircraft. The US Navy recently awarded a $1 billion contract to Raytheon to develop and manufacture the NGJ for the EA-18G. The NGJ is an AESA-based system designed to not only provide awareness of enemy radar and electronic attacks but to jam enemy radar and targeting systems on multiple frequencies at once, especially surface-to-air (SAM) missile systems.
Modern SAM systems have a much greater ability to detect and target stealth aircraft than in the past. But aircraft equipped with the NGJ will be able to avoid being targeted by these systems and launch electronic attacks of their own against them. This will not only help improve the electronic attack capabilities of friendly forces but allow them to carry out their missions in hostile territory with a lower risk of being detected, effectively enhancing the stealth attributes of NGJ-equipped planes. In the words of one air force Commander speaking on the NGJ, “We are making the enemy look at the sky through a soda straw.”
While the EA-18G will be the first plane to feature the NGJ, it is designed to be compatible with many different aircraft. It is likely to be incorporated into F-35 and the upcoming B-21 long-range strike-bomber as well.
Radar jamming and spoofing has been a vital factor in military affairs for decades, and in the 21st century, the importance of this technology is going to increase dramatically. Firms serving the military in developing ECM and ECCM solutions will want to make sure they have only the best people and organizations on their side in this new era of electronic warfare. With a track record of radio frequency excellence dating back to World War II, the engineers at Bliley Technologies are more than up to the task. Take a look at some of our solutions for the defense sector and learn about our proven expertise in pushing the boundary in RF design.