This is the contest for control of the electromagnetic spectrum, a battle fought through the discipline of electronic warfare, or EW, and without it there can be no mission success.
On the modern battlefield, there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye. Above and beyond the missions we can see and hear – on the ground, in the air and at sea – a hidden battle pulses and surges, and along with it, the prospects of victory or defeat.
Why Electronic Warfare Matters
Modern military capabilities rely increasingly on the electromagnetic spectrum. Warfighters depend on the spectrum to communicate with each other and their commanders, to understand the environment and inform decisions, to accurately identify and engage targets, and to protect them from harm.
EW provides a vitally important function – protecting our access and use of the spectrum – while simultaneously denying and degrading an adversary’s use and access.
Electronic Warfare is a Game of Cat and Mouse
The story of electronic warfare is one of intrigue, secrecy and technological innovation at the cutting edge. Throughout its history, EW has played a significant role in helping military leaders maintain a strategic edge in a battlespace experiencing rapid technological advances.
As nations learned to exploit the electromagnetic spectrum for military advantage – in areas like communications, navigation and radar – military strategists and scientists simultaneously engineered ways to deny their adversaries those similar advantages. A cat-and-mouse dynamic emerged in the competition for spectrum superiority – one that continues to define the advancement of the field today.
Global technologies and developments in EW are leveling the playing field. The proliferation and affordability of commercial electronics and computing power means that EW is no longer the exclusive province of wealthy nations; it is now a battlefield for smaller states and even non-state actors. EW helps sort through this complexity, making sure our systems are able to communicate, identify and combat enemy radar.
The future of U.S. and allied spectrum superiority will require increasingly innovative strategies that keep our warfighters ahead of current and emerging threats.
Electronic Warfare: How, Where and Why
How does a fighting force use the electromagnetic spectrum? What does spectrum superiority look like? The answer depends on the mission at hand and the specific circumstances facing the warfighter.
Electronic warfare is employed in three ways: offensive, defensive and supportive measures. In other words, the spectrum is used to attack the enemy, to protect friendly forces and to provide critical situational awareness that aids warfighter decision-making and increases the likelihood of mission success.