What is Electromagnetic Warfare?

Electromagnetic Warfare, more commonly known as Electronic Warfare (EW), is defined by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) as, “any military action involving the use of electromagnetic and directed energy to control the electromagnetic spectrum or to attack the enemy.”

A more precise definition is a military or intelligence operation that uses all or parts of the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) – radio waves, microwaves, millimeter waves, infrared, visible light, ultra violet light, x-rays, and gamma rays – to detect actions or communications, protect against enemy activities, communicate, and/or deny an adversary’s use of those signals.

This advanced capability is typically broken out into three subcategories:

  • Electronic Support (ES), which is the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) function of Electromagnetic Warfare. This part of the mission is to sense, intercept, identify, and track electromagnetic energy sources in order to recognize threats, collect targeting (geolocation) and signals intelligence data, and provide information for future operational plans.
  • Electronic Protection (EP) is a form of threat suppression using a range of cyber and multispectral radio frequency/infrared (RF/IR) tools to prevent EW receivers from being jammed or deceived by Electronic Attacks (EA) from adversaries. It also protects against accidental signal disruption by “spillover” jamming signals emitted by nearby friendly forces.
  • Electronic Attack (EA), analyzes a threats and calculates a response. This part of the mission uses either EMS signals, directed energy pulses, or integrated cyber effects to disrupt, deny, degrade, deceive, and otherwise neutralize an enemy’s hostile electromagnetic actions. These attacks are often executed by an advanced EW jet or helicopter platforms, but can also be carried out by unmanned vehicles, aboard ships, on ground vehicles, and more.

Although many technology companies claim electromagnetic spectrum expertise, successful on-time development, fielding, and sustainment of advanced, constantly-updating EW technologies requires state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities and global ES, EP, and EA mission support capabilities. This has become more true than ever as DoD performance requirements have surged in recent years.


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