What’s in an Electronic Warfare System?

Electronic warfare (EW) systems can be configured for a variety of different missions and use a host of different subsystems. But despite this incredible sophistication and diversity, there are three main capabilities common to most electronic warfare systems – sensing the environment (receiver sensor), analyzing the environment (signal analysis), and responding to the environment (technique generation and high power transmission).

Sense and understand the environment

An electronic warfare system, whether configured to attack, protect or support, must have a way to collect and make sense of the signals in its environment. It must identify what’s out there, understand how it’s using the spectrum, and determining if it’s a threat. This is the system’s “receive” capability, and it is usually performed by a subsystem called radar warning receiver (RWR).

Address threats head on

If the RWR detects a signal and analysis determines it to be an unavoidable threat, the EW system must then neutralize it and passes the threat data to the technique generator which determines how the system should respond to address the threat. The technique generator will select the jamming technique with the highest likelihood of success, based on a number of factors including the particular threat’s characteristics, the EW system’s host platform and the domain of battle – land, sea or air.

Jam, broadcast, transmit

For an EW system to conduct electronic attack or electronic protect missions, it must be able to broadcast signals of its own to dominate the electromagnetic spectrum. Once a threat is analyzed, and a response generated, the EW system’s transmitter(s) ability to precisely radiate electromagnetic energy that make jamming, spoofing, deception and other electronic countermeasures possible.