Data is shaping defence decisions – but what does this mean in terms of military advantage in the Electromagnetic Environment?

Electronic Warfare Advisor, BAE Systems Read time: 3 mins
It’s no news that data is changing our day-to-day lives, but in defence specifically, we are seeing data-enabled rapid transformation in the Electromagnetic Environment (EME) and the Electromagnetic Spectrum (EMS)
Data is shaping defence decisions blog imageAs Air Chief Marshall Sir Stuart Peach – Chairman of the NATO Military Committee – has poignantly stated, “To understand, manage and control the Electromagnetic Environment is a vital role in warfare at all levels of intensity. The outcome of future operations will be decided by the protagonist who does this to decisive advantage.”* 

So how do we ensure “decisive advantage” in today – and tomorrow’s – environment?

Understanding, managing and controlling the Electromagnetic Environment (EME) is crucial. Recognised by NATO as the environment that connects and enables electromagnetic based activities and effects in all the other domains, the Electromagnetic Environment (EME) is the critical terrain in which the Electromagnetic Spectrum (EMS) and its influencing factors (natural and man-made) significantly impact the planning and execution of all operations.
Electromagnetic spectrum CEMA 5 Data blog
Although traditionally considered as a communication and information systems function with some operational planning input, EMS management is no longer a simple matter of frequency allocation and mutual interference avoidance.  The EME provides a vital and ever more significant source of intelligence and as such, is a key enabler of military advantage along with other information sources, and will be prone to increasing deception activities and attack.

What does data have to do with it?

Understanding, managing and controlling the EME requires the ability to characterise, analyse, monitor and report the full spectrum of EME events/activities (military/commercial) within a given area, to enable the development and maintenance of an operating area recognised EME picture.
The EME picture provides the means of building EM pattern of life profiles, which enable opportunities to predict future events, exploit opportunities (advantage), inform decisions/planning (choices), minimise mutual interference/EM fratricide (manage) and enhance the delivery of diplomatic, kinetic and non-kinetic effects (coordinate/integrate/synchronise). Conversely, the lack of EME based understanding/pattern life will result in disadvantage, increased operating risk and unintended consequences.

Is it time for a shift in perspective?

To take advantage, we must first recognise that it is the data which concerns us, not just sensors. While we can deduce pre-determined information, for example a radar track, we can also compare EME and platform data in a multi-domain knowledge fusion environment, to see if we are being deceived or disrupted (understand), to reinforce or diminish the veracity we can assign to the data, and make informed decisions (advantage). By using data intelligently, we can even set our analytics off to discover things we had not anticipated in advance (predictive rather than reactive).

How can we manage data effectively?

Having embraced what data is, and the advantages it can bring, we must next turn attention to how we can manage it for exploitation.
Do we migrate old data or start anew? Of course, every use case is different, but there is certainly a strong argument for focusing on the new and building for the future, rather than expending wasteful energy on data that becomes less relevant each year.
Measuring how much data the world creates is a moving target, but some estimates predict that by 2025 there will be over 460 exabytes of data generated every day.  We need analytics to help us make sense of it all, and as processing speeds increase, analytics will also help us make decisions and react to the environment. How will we train our learning algorithms? Big data is all 1s and 0s, real and synthetic data at this level is indistinguishable, and it is in such hybridised environments that we need to practice.
At BAE Systems we recognise the significant challenges faced by defence organisations as they grapple to understand, manage and control the EME. Contact us to learn how we can help you. Get in touch with the CEMA team at
* Joint Doctrine Note 1/18 Cyber and Electromagnetic Activities (Ministry of Defence)

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About the author
Dave Hewitt, Electronic Warfare Advisor at BAE Systems

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Dave Hewitt Electronic Warfare Advisor, BAE Systems 23 June 2020