Electronic Weapons: Babble Bites Back

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August 11, 2006: The rapid development of electronic jammers, to shut down wireless detonators for roadside bombs, also brought about more unanticipated disruption of friendly electronics. Iraqi civilians are well aware of this problem, as they quickly learned that their cell phone service tends to disappear when an American military convoy approaches. Other wireless gadgets tend to go haywire as well. The list of items affected grew as the American jammer (mainly the Warlock series) added more frequencies to its reparatory.
This problem was first noted back during the 1990 campaign to liberate Kuwait. It was discovered that certain combinations of airborne jammer frequencies could trigger an involuntary launch of Patriot anti-aircraft missiles, as well as some less catastrophic, but equally unexpected events. Investigation of these incidents revealed something electronic warfare experts have been warning of for a long time. With so much exotic new gear, capable of putting out so many different signals, and in a huge number of combinations (which creates even more new electronic signals), there was no way to knowing what kind of impact this would have on existing military, and civilian, electronics. Throughout the 1990s, the problem only got worse. This became obvious as there were increased incidents of military electronics tests trashing, or playing with, nearby civilian electronic devices.
The military is eagerly seeking some solutions, because it's important for military equipment, especially communications and control systems, not to suffer electronic interference. Warlock jammed some military equipment, including some radios. This was not good. Work is underway on some solutions, but none looks particularly promising. As a result, the most likely source of "hostile" jamming is the force with the greatest number of transmitters. For American troops, that comes down to, "we have met the enemy, and it is us."

 


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