Command the spectrum

Electronic warfare tools evolve to give the USAF a signal advantage

Jammers. Radars. Signals engineered to deceive. In electronic warfare, the attack can come from a wide range of sources on the ground or in the air.

And systems like sophisticated radars and surface-to-air missile installations are operating in new ways. They are targeting faster, fusing multiple sensors, creating unexpected waveforms and operating at increasingly higher and lower frequencies, where they are harder to detect and jam.

The U.S. Air Force faces a range of advanced technology in the crowded arena of the electromagnetic spectrum. There's only one way to meet the challenge: with a full suite of electronic warfare technologies.

“For pilots to dominate the skies, they need to control the electromagnetic spectrum,” said Annabel Flores, Electronic Warfare Systems vice president at Raytheon Intelligence & Space, a Raytheon Technologies business. “Electronic warfare systems like advanced jammers and radar warning receivers give them the right tools to win the fight.”

Those EW systems can help protect fighter jets, large body tankers and cargo aircraft – and make enemy systems unreliable.

RI&S has demonstrated EW tech that is based on open systems architecture. Open systems architecture allows for fast upgrades and easy maintenance. It also enables use of third-party technologies, similar to the way installing an app can give a smartphone new powers.

Take, for example, the modular, non-proprietary Multi-Function Integrated Receiver-Exciter, or MFIRES. It’s built with open systems architecture and can be installed on a variety of aircraft and other platforms, from fourth- to fifth- and even sixth-generation systems.

Next Generation Jammer Mid-band - A new era of airborne electronic attack

“MFIRES can be what you need it to be,” said Joey Gold, a director at RI&S. “It can change into any number of configurations – a radar warning receiver, a jammer or a single, integrated electronic sensing and electronic attack solution. And it can include digital payloads not traditionally associated with EW.”

MFIRES and other EW tech like advanced jammers and battle management systems already have machine learning and cognitive features, and enough processing power for future autonomous functions. Cognitive EW interprets radar signals and adapts to keep the platform hidden, even in a congested and unpredictable signal environment.

RI&S' Electronic Support Critical Experiment and Reactive Electronic Attack Measures programs are already embracing this futuristic tech, allowing EW systems to quickly determine new threats based on existing information about how those threats behave.