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Distributed EW Operations in the Modern Congested RF Environment

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Systems Concepts and Integration

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5G, Communications, Cyber and Electromagnetic Activities (CEMA), decision making, Distributed EW, Electronic Warfare (EW), intelligence, Radio Frequency (RF), Situational Awareness (SA), Surveillance


NATO needs improved Electronic Warfare (EW) capabilities to dominate the Electromagnetic Environment (EME). However, research in the commercial communications market is driving the technology forward at a rapid pace. Asymmetric adversaries can easily obtain advanced communications technology by simply buying smartphones. Symmetric adversaries can put this kind of technology in a ruggedised box, or extract key technologies. NATO is in an arms race where EW technology needs to maintain pace with commercial development. This is becoming increasingly difficult due to the introduction of increasingly complex signals (e.g. 4G/5G technology). With communications becoming more widespread and our adversaries making increasing use of Electronic Attack (EA), NATO EW equipment will need to operate in an increasingly congested and contested EME. If headway in this race is not made, then NATO operations involving EW for situational awareness, intelligence gathering, cueing of electronic attack or Cyber effects will be severely burdened. NATO needs to find ways to exploit this increasingly congested spectrum in order to acquire and maintain dominance in the EME. The most effective counter to this technical evolution will be the use of networked and distributed NATO EW hardware; single sensors/effectors alone are not up to the task. Distributed EW operations will involve improved cross-cueing, low and high quality sensors, as well as increased data sharing between EW hardware. The result will be high quality EW products enabled through effective signal: detection, classification, geolocation, disruption and denial.


The task group will bring experts from NATO Nations and Partners together to pool knowledge on EW, to: - Develop concepts to improve interception of complex future communications targets. - Develop distributed EW technologies to improve future NATO EW systems in an evolving, congested EME. - Validate & demonstrate techniques through joint field trials. - Provide an integration path for EW leading to compatibility across NATO. The focus within the task group will initially be on two use cases: - MIMO systems (as in 5G); and - Making sense of a congested EME (e.g. overlapping and interleaved transmissions). These objectives build on the results from previous NATO and national activities.


The following are starting points for the task group: - Transceiver technology: determine which EME parameters are required for versatile interception or waveform injection – and how to acquire them. For example, MIMO signals will likely require some antenna diversity; software defined EW (using Software Defined Radio (SDR) technology) will play a role in the versatility. - Sharing technology: make a change towards more network centric EW operations, in tasking, collecting, fusing as well as reporting. For example, sensors with different quality, some quick, some more in-depth, producing relevant data for all types of communication technologies (e.g. 5G, cognitive radio, increasingly wideband signals). - Analysis technology: determine the presence of complex communications signals in the congested EME – and intercept signals from opponents. One link with cyber falls under this category (the other involves EA). - Hardware technology: provide requirements for software defined EW hardware that can be flexible according to tasks and situations, while providing synchronicity for co-operation.

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