Thursday, December 27, 2012

Unmanned Systems for EM-Cyber Warfare

In the December 2012 version of Proceedings, the U.S. Chief of Naval Operations discusses how the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum and cyber warfare have become intertwined into a single EM-cyber environment, one which will will have significant implications for future war-fighting.

The CNO argues that the two primary keys to commanding the EM-cyber domain are a knowledge of the environment and agility.  Naval unmanned systems' role in both aspects of this rapidly evolving warfare domain will grow in importance.

The CNO writes that knowing the EM-cyber environment requires the ability to "detect, assess,and predict in real time the activities going on in that domain." Because in most cases, unmanned systems are less expensive to procure than manned platforms, drones dedicated to electronic and cyber warfare can be deployed in large numbers, surveying a wider geographic area.  Additionally, UAVs are rapidly and easily upgraded with new sensors which collect across the electromagnetic spectrum.  Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs) and Unmanned Surface Vessels (USVs) are now commonly used to survey the hydrographic and meterological environment, and with the addition of new sensors, these systems could also contribute to collecting data for the EM-cyber mission.

Chinese Harpy Six-Pack - #s are key in EM-Cyber
Admiral Greenert also notes that to "improve our agility we need to accelerate our shift to EM-cyber systems with software-controlled characteristics and hardware that is modular and can be quickly and inexpensively changed to operate with different EM parameters."  Unmanned platforms offer some unique possibilities to enhance the Navy's agility in the EM-cyber fight.  First, small UUVs and USVs can manuever into congested near-shore waters that submarines and surface vessels simply can't reach due to draft or the risk of enemy detection.  This ability is especially important from the cyber-standpoint, where access to Wi-Fi, cellular, and other short range networks requires close proximity.  And because they can be procured in higher numbers, unmanned platforms - some of them expendable - will work together in a swarm to jam, spoof, or otherwise deny enemy networks.  Another benefit of using off-board, unmanned systems for EM-Cyber is that emitters are removed from manned platforms, complicating an enemy's targeting process and mitigating the use of anti-radiation weapons against high value (manned) assets.
EA-18G - The Navy's Last Manned Jammer?

Electronic warfare UAVs are not new; Israeli Aircraft Industries' Harpy is a loitering anti-radiation UAV that flies one-way hard kill missions against air defense networks and has been in service for two decades.  The Israelis have also exported variants to China, India, and South Korea. A more advanced version of Harpy, the Harop, also features anti-ship capabilities.

The $67 million per plane EA-18G Growler is the Navy's newest airborne electronic attack (AEA) aircraft, gradually replacing the fleet's venerable EA-6B. Future AEA platforms will add yet another level of precision to electronic attack.  The currently planned Growler replacement is the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ), which will almost certainly be unmanned and feature advanced, long-range, electronically scanned arrays (AESA) combining radar and jamming into one antenna.  A more incremental and affordable step towards an unmanned AEA aircraft might be to add jamming pods to an existing UAV, much as the Growler leveraged jammer technology from EA-6B and the F-18F's airframe.

Unmanned platforms will eventually engage in the full spectrum of non-kinetic warfare. Most importantly, drones will expand the number of platforms available for EM-Cyber missions enabling the navy to create an asymmetry over an opponent with only a limited number of manned jamming platforms.  EM-Cyber is often a numbers game, as seen in cyber-intrusions, where hundreds or thousands of unsuccesful attempts may be made autonomously before a system can be exploited.  Future EM-Cyber battles will be no different, requiring more numerous and mobile attack nodes to defeat sophisticated enemy networks.