Monday, December 7, 2009
History of Electronic Warfare
Such is the reliance on the Electromagnetic (EM) spectrum in the world today, in particular during military combat operations, that it is crucial to be able to exploit and dominate it when required. It is clear that Electronic Warfare (EW) has a pivotal role to play prior to, during and after cessation of operations across the whole spectrum of combat.
The history of EW is almost as old as Marconi’s invention of wireless radio communications in 1896. The earliest known use, or at least consideration, of EW was during the Russo-Japanese war of 1905. The Japanese auxiliary cruiser, SS Shinano Maru had located the Russian fleet in the Tsushima Strait, and was communicating its location (by wireless radio) to the Imperial Japanese Fleet HQ at Mesampo Bay, Korea. The captain of the Russian warship, Ural, requested permission to disrupt the Japanese communications link by attempting to transmit a stronger Radio Frequency (RF) signal over the Shinano Mura's signal hoping to distort the Japanese's signal at the receiving end, Admiral Togo's Fleet HQ. The Russian Admiral Rozhestvenshiy refused the Electronic Warfare advice and denied the Ural permission to electronically jam the enemy, which in those circumstances might have proved invaluable. Military historians are undecided whether Rozhestvenshiy wanted to prove to his fleet his self-confidence in the face of the enemy or that he simply failed to grasp the value of electronic jamming as a means of preventing the enemy from communicating.
During World War II, both the Combined and Axis Powers extensively used EW, or what Winston Churchill referred to as the "Battle of the Beams." Initially, the focus of effort for both sides was in defeating navigational RADARs used to vector bombers to long range targets. Later, EW helped in providing the battlefield commander with vital tactical intelligence. The importance of EW was particularly demonstrated at the battle of Gazala-Bir Hacheim (Tobruk) in June 1942. Rommel not only knew of the British plans and of their numerical superiority in a general way, he also knew, thanks to his EW/Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) Company, exactly where the British fighting units were deployed. British low-level tactical communications, sent mostly in clear, provided the location, strengths, deployment, and readiness of their units. Had Rommel had the capability to electronically jam the British tactical communications during that battle, the consequences could have been even more terrible for the British during their withdrawal.
The first modern day co-ordinated and integrated use of EW was by the Israelis at the start of the Six Day War on 5 June 1967. The Israelis launched a pre-emptive strike against Egyptian Air and Air Defence targets by electronically jamming the most distant RADARs within range of Israeli EW equipment. Moreover, during and after the initial attack, Israeli EW operators who spoke fluent Egyptian Arabic infiltrated the enemy Air Defence radio communications network, transmitting false orders, canceling correct orders and generally causing confusion and preventing Egyptian Commands from using the radio. Ultimately, the Israelis managed to destroy the entire Egyptian Air Force in the space of two hours!
Although we know EW has been used for over a century, until very recently it has been a rather shadowy and highly specialised area. This was due in some part to the similarity to and relationship between EW with SIGINT and also the general ignorance of HQ Staff to the capabilities, value and tactics of EW. However, thanks to senior officers accepting the lessons identified on combat operations and demanding integrated and comprehensive training for their Staffs, EW capability and value is now widely recognised and has been established into the absolute mainstream of all military operations. It would be inconceivable today to conduct any sort of military operation, from Peace Support Operations to High Intensity Conflict, without planning for EW activities. EW is fundamentally central to provide indicators and warnings, protection of all levels of force, area and platform and decisive electronic attack. Significantly EW is increasingly being deployed across Joint and Combined military operations; it is essential therefore to have common Definition and Policies that allow the effective use of EW in Joint and Combined operations in the Maritime, Land and Air environments.