News | Airborne electronic attack: Owning the invisible battlespace

Airborne electronic attack is a crucial capability for gaining an advantage in the electromagnetic spectrum. It includes:

  • Disabling, degrading and denying enemy air defenses by overwhelming them with radio frequency energy.
  • Deceiving them using electronic decoys.
  • Disrupting enemy threats through jamming their radar and communications systems.

By interfering with enemy communications, radar systems and sensors, it ensures superiority on the battlefield and enables forces to carry out missions with reduced risks and increased operational effectiveness.

Today’s jammers are updated versions of mechanical systems that first flew in the Vietnam War. But the airspace has evolved into the digital age – adversary air defenses have advanced, and uncrewed aerial vehicles are proliferating.

To maintain a tactical advantage, military agencies are seeking newer, faster and more powerful ways to use the electromagnetic spectrum – the “invisible part of the battlespace,” as it’s sometimes called – as a defensive weapon and a way to compromise adversaries’ ability to attacks.

“The US is facing continuing, evolving threats. We really need to evolve our electronic warfare capabilities,” said Stephanie Edmisten, vice president of airborne electronic attack at Raytheon. “We have to be able to detect these multiple threats in a highly contested area all at once. With whatever the next conflict is, electromagnetic spectrum dominance will win out.”

There are three areas of electronic warfare: electronic attack, electronic protection and electronic surveillance. Here are some of the ways Raytheon supports them.

Electronic attack

Electronic attack’s purpose is to suppress, deceive or destroy hostile electronic systems such as radars, communications and electronic sensors, to gain a tactical advantage on the battlefield. It allows forces to suppress enemy air defenses, disrupt command-and-control networks, and reduce risk for friendly forces carrying out their missions.

Raytheon has been developing new electronic-attack technologies for years. For example, its Next Generation Jammer Mid-Band, or NGJ-MB, will replace the aging ALQ-99 jamming pods currently used on the EA-18G Growler aircraft – the US Navy’s main electronic attack platform.

“No aircrew wants to go on an actual strike mission without a Growler,” Winston said. “It’s the best thing out there.”

Raytheon designed the NGJ-MB not only to meet today’s US Navy electronic warfare mission requirements, but to provide a cost-effective, open systems architecture for future upgrades. By doing so, the NGJ-MB significantly enhances the electronic attack capabilities of the US Joint Forces.

“It is drastic what NGJ-MB is going to do for jamming,” Winston said. “It’s a multi-generational leap in technology.”