Electronic Weapons: EW Disrupts Life in Europe and Middle East


June 24, 2024: EW (Electronic Warfare) in Ukraine, the Middle East and northwestern Russia as a result of military operations has caused significant problems for ships, aircraft and cross country vehicles in roadless areas that depend on satellite navigation systems to get where they need to go. The electronic interference is worst for aircraft operations over

the Black Sea area from Turkey to Azerbaijan; the Mediterranean Sea extending from Cyprus to Libya; the Baltic Sea near Poland and Latvia; and the Arctic near Finland and Norway. In 2023 commercial airliners reported thousands of incidents where their aircraft had problems because of jamming. This was four times more than the problems encountered in 2022 and twentyfold increase since 2018. Most of this jamming was meant to interfere with battlefield UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles).

In the Middle East, there have been reports of false signals telling pilots their aircraft were directly above the airport in Tel Aviv despite being far away. In nearby countries like Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon airline pilots reported that the jamming caused their electronic navigations systems so that onboard instruments indicated that the aircraft were over an airport when the pilots could look out the windshield and see that this was not the case. Pilots alert to the false signals taking them off course could take action to get back on course and reach their destination. Pilots have to be alert because some jamming is done in the form of spoofing, where a signal is jammed in such a way that it takes the aircraft off course while trying not to reveal that this is the result of jamming. Spoofing is hard to distinguish because the signal appears legitimate. Of the several satellite navigation systems available only Europe’s Galileo incorporates an authentication system that can verify when a signal is from its satellites. Galileo, which currently is the most accurate and precise navigation satellite system, plans to introduce an even stronger level of authentication, according to the European Commission.

Some companies in the regions affected have developed equipment that protects GPS signals from jamming and spoofing. An Israeli firm, InfiniDome, has been in business for seven years developing inexpensive equipment to deal with jamming. This equipment is sold online for $100. InfiniDome says it has successfully protected trucking, UAV operations and others in Israel and around the world with its InfiniDome GPSdome-1 and GPSdome-2 anti-jam products.

While the jamming and spoofing has a significant impact on commercial airline travel to and from Israel while current hostilities with Iran and its proxy Hamas, this has prompted commercial firms to develop long-term solutions for the intense jamming that has been present in the region for years.

The recent outbreak of electronic jamming and spoofing is nothing new. During World War II the allies non-electronic used chaff along with several electronic countermeasures to deal with German air defense systems during the 1943-45 aerial bombing campaign against German cities. Chaff, also known as Window, involved releasing thin strips of aluminum-coated paper from the aircraft. These strips created false radar echoes, confusing German radar operators and making it harder for them to track the bombers accurately. The Allies developed radar jamming devices to disrupt German radar systems. These devices emitted radio frequency interference, interfering with enemy radar signals and reducing their effectiveness. Bombers used DF (Direction Finding signal) jamming to interfere with German radio navigation systems. By transmitting false signals or noise, they disrupted the accuracy of German fighter direction finding equipment. Spot jamming targeted specific German radar stations. Bombers transmitted jamming signals directly at these stations to disrupt their operations.

Britain also pioneered the use of Electronic Warfare Aircraft in the form of Mosquito light bombers. Some were equipped with electronic warfare systems. These aircraft flew ahead of the bomber formations, jamming German radar and communication frequencies. Mosquitoes were unique in that they were made largely of wood, which radar could not detect. The metal components in Mosquito aircraft were insufficient to show up as an aircraft on German radar. All these were a significant factor in protecting Allied bombers operating over Germany.

Sixty years after World War II the rapid development of electronic jammers, to shut down wireless detonators for roadside bombs in Afghanistan and Iraq, 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 repertoire. 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 know 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 from 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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