Is the US Falling Behind in the Electromagnetic Battle?
The power to “bind” an enemy, disable air defenses and radar, and deprive the adversary of the ability to communicate or aim at a target.

On the spectrum domain: Greenert’s theory

The former leader of the Naval Operation, Admiral Jonathan Greenert, formulated the premise: whoever controls the electromagnetic spectrum will hold supremacy in future conflicts. This domain would make it possible to interfere with enemy communications, radars, weapons guidance systems, drone data links, and radio frequency signals, which could be decisive in a modern war scenario.

The power to “bind” an enemy, disable air defenses and radar, and deprive the adversary of the ability to communicate or aim at a target could make or break the fight. With this perspective, the US military has been promoting the development of electronic warfare (EW) technologies for years.

US EW programs are diverse and broad, from frequency jamming against IEDs, developed in Iraq, to ​​the recent ship-integrated EW known as SEWIP (Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program).

SEWIP and Next-Generation Jammer: Advances in Electronic Warfare

SEWIP, designed to jam enemy anti-ship missile guidance systems and disable drone radio frequency communications and data links, has been refined into its latest version, Block 3 SEWIP. This edition demonstrates a growing ability to deconfigure the spectrum, jam systems at greater distances, and operate on a greater number of frequencies.

In addition, there are systems for aircraft, such as the Next-Generation Jammer, capable of jamming several frequencies simultaneously. Fighter jets like the F-35 now operate with increasingly sophisticated EW systems, demonstrating impressive technological development.

Newer EW systems employ so-called narrow-pattern “pencil beams” designed to emit a more precise and less detectable signature. However, these long-range, wide signals could reveal a position, allowing the enemy to detect a location or find a “line of fire” in electronic systems.

Criticism of the rate of development: Bacon’s perspective

Despite notable advances in EW systems and constant updates, concerns have been raised about the speed of development and integration. Rep. Don Bacon, a Nebraska Republican and retired Air Force one-star general, recently expressed his concern about it. Despite extensive planning and discussions, he pointed to a lack of concrete results in EW combat capability.

Bacon’s remarks support ongoing efforts at the Pentagon aimed at rapidly integrating off-the-shelf technologies that can be adapted for military use. However, more speed is needed in the weapons acquisition and development process.

The goal is to keep the pace of weapon development in step with technological advancement, ensuring the latest system innovations are incorporated as they emerge. In this way, it is expected to keep the armed forces at the forefront and prevent the obsolescence of technologies developed by the government.

Integration as the core of military modernization

The Pentagon promotes what it calls “open architecture,” a reference to the use of common standards and IP protocols to ensure that the technology infrastructure is ready to accommodate emerging new systems, technologies and innovations. Current EW weapons developers are focused on designing new systems that can be easily upgraded via software.

Ultimately, this approach seeks to facilitate the integration of technological advances into weapons, preparing the US military for a future where mastery of the electromagnetic spectrum is increasingly critical to success in modern theaters of war.