“We are going to struggle with the volume of information which is coming in,” was the stark warning of Shaun Vickers, electronic warfare (EW) business development manager for MASS, to delegates during this year’s Association of Old Crows EW Asia conference being held in Singapore 29-30 January. Citing the deluge of data which Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) gathering efforts now provide caused in no small measure by the profusion of devices using radio frequency energy in the civilian and military spheres, Mr Vickers stressed that elements of air power theory are have become highly applicable to the EW domain, and how to manoeuvre within it.
Referencing the famous OODA (Observe, Orientate, Decide Act) Loop developed by the pilot and airpower theorist John Boyd in the 1950s, Mr Vickers reiterated the premise that, “he who moves around the OODA Loop quickest can maintain the operational advantage.”
He added that the synergies of EW theory with airpower theory can be seen in the need to maintain EW supremacy and superiority, just as air superiority and supremacy are essential to air operations. He underscored the importance of ensuring the ability for one’s forces to preserve the freedom to exploit the electromagnetic spectrum, and to manoeuvre within it: “The manoeuvre space is complex, but we must not allow it to become chaotic.”
On today’s battlefield, the issue is not only the amount of materiel in both friendly and adversary orders of battle, “but the vast amount of data that the materiel is generating and that the materiel depends on.” Mr Vickers observed that, “operational effectiveness is still dependent on the quality and timeliness of the data.”
He warned that, “the electromagnetic environment is increasingly congested and contested. Being constrained in the electromagnetic environment denies that ‘first-to-move’ advantage.” Crucially, the industry executive urged EW practitioners and ELINT customers to think about the data that is being collected and how it is being used.
Does it matter that the EM environment will be congested and contested? When is freedom of manoeuvre actually required? The collect is always active in the modern battlespace. We must look at the data gathered from the environment, and how it is being used: “The answer to the problem does not always need to be about buying newer and shinier equipment. The better use and integration of existing data and people is vital,” and can act as a force multiplier, he emphasised: “We need to think about the velocity, veracity and variety of the data being collected.”
Dr Thomas Withington